Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Watch out for the oil level!

I am not always excited on a human level to write Simple Thoughts like this one. The reason being is they are not traditionally very popular. And in our social media, likes based value system, you have to reconcile that before you publish some things.

God loves to see each of us encouraged in our faith. Built up. And growing. And as part of that growing process sometimes we need to be challenged, not just encouraged.
Just being honest with you before I continue this train of thought...

I really felt to write and remind us to watch out for something very specific in this season.
To watch out we have the oil we need to navigate our life and faith properly. Because we live in amazing times with some major change, drama and excitement, it is easy to forget about the most basic and needed components to faith in Christ.

Jesus shared a parable one day that goes like this...

Matthew 25:1-13 TPT
1“At the time my coming draws near, heaven’s kingdom realm can be compared to ten maidens who took their oil lamps and went outside to meet the bridegroom and his bride. 2–4 Five of them were foolish and ill-prepared, for they took no extra oil for their lamps. Five of them were wise and sensible, for they took flasks of olive oil with their lamps. 5When the bridegroom didn’t come when they expected, they all grew drowsy and fell asleep. 6Then suddenly, in the middle of the night, they were awakened by the shout ‘Get up! The bridegroom is here! Come out and have an encounter with him!’ 7So all the girls got up and trimmed their lamps. 8But the foolish ones were running out of oil, so they said to the five wise ones, ‘Share your oil with us, because our lamps are going out!’

9“‘We can’t,’ they replied. ‘We don’t have enough for all of us. You’ll have to go and buy some for yourselves!’

10“While the five girls were out buying oil, the bridegroom appeared. Those who were ready and waiting were escorted inside with him and the wedding party to enjoy the feast. And then the door was locked. 11Later, the five foolish girls came running up to the door and pleaded, ‘Lord, Lord, let us come in!’

12“But he called back, ‘Go away! Do I know you? I can assure you, I don’t even know you!’

13“That is the reason you should always stay awake and be alert, because you don’t know the day or hour when the Bridegroom will appear.”

This parable is purposefully shared by Jesus to get you to think.
To think about your own readiness for eternity right now.
To get you to check your oil level right now.
When you read this I hope that is exactly what it does...

To all those of who have read these Simple Thoughts over many years or maybe just recently and from all over the globe, I want to spend eternity with you!
Keep working on, making time for and developing your relationship with Jesus.
Keep asking for the Holy Spirit to fill you each day.

I want to be ready. Are you ready?

Something to think about...

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Watch out for the pendulum swing!

A famous man once trained for a very special profession.
It was seen as prestigious. Glamourous.
One that brought honour to his family.
During his extensive training and initial attempts to operate in this role and the world he lived in, he discovered to his horror things weren't as they seemed.
Hypocrisy was rampant.
Manipulation was everywhere.
And the people tasked with good, seemed to be doing the very opposite.

In his passion to fix all this, he wrote his considered ideas and ideals down and "posted" them in a very public place.
The upshot of this much needed revelation was a revolution.
And the upshot of the revolution was that it went too far...
Along with addressing the issues of his time, many, many innocent people were killed.

Please understand that his goal was right and noble.
The pendulum of change just swung too far!
Eventually some equilibrium was experienced, but at a huge cost.

I see this phenomenon also play out on a personal level.
I see someone wanting to change something about their life for the better. They dive hard into addressing their weight, fitness, or relationship.
Sometimes the pendulum swings so far they have problems out the other side. Yoyo dieting, failed goals that sit deep, and damaged relationships litter their path of good intentions.

Over the last few years I have spoken with many people upset that their good intentions lead them down roads they regretted in hindsight.

So what is the answer to this?
How do we bring much needed change without swinging on a pendulum that creates another challenge to overcome and a price to pay?

Here is my simple advice in this regard...

1. Slow and Considered over Fast and Furious
Better to work an issue through, get great advice, rely on the skills of others, than to blindly create a whirlwind of change.

God loves to bring about Godly change through Godly people.
He has a history of it.
The Apostle Paul recommended a marathon approach to faith as opposed to a sprint.
Sprinting is all about power and purpose for a moment.
Marathon running is far more nuanced and strategic.
I learned in my running that it worked best when you had a goal, then applied strategy to meet that goal, along with a willingness to make adjustments along the way.

1 Corinthians 9:24 NIV
Run in such a way as to get the prize.

2. Rely on Outside Power over Internal Passion.
It is easy to ran fast at an issue and in a fit of passion want to be the hero of the hour.
Instead I recommend sometimes a more considered approach that may mean a little delay. Better a little delay and get it right, than passion creating a newer challenge.

John 16:13 NIV
But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.

3. Design a Landing Spot along with a Starting Point
Jesus said to consider first what you are looking to build before you even begin.
He understood that a godly strategy included the whole strategy. Not just desire, not just passion and desire, but a clear goal.
No one builds a house by just starting without a full design already worked through and even signed off by others.

Luke 14:28-30 NIV
28“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’

In whatever you do, can I encourage you to be a world changer.
And as part of your strategy keep the pendulum in check.
I personally think the result is a lot better.

Something to think about...

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

"I have a right to be offended!"

That phrase has been thrown around a lot in the last few years.
And it has recently made its presence felt in my world and ministry on a larger scale.
So today I wanted to pose a few thoughts...
Do we have a right to offended?
Should we be getting offended?
What will getting offended achieve?
How can we deal with it when it comes?

The irony for me in sharing this blog post is that while talking about offense many we will be offended just by my doing so. Others will hear I have done this and be offended at the very thought of it.
From my little corner of the globe it is like people are waking up every morning and looking under every rock and under every bush looking for offense. And again that just offended someone else...

When I look at offense in the New Testament there are only a few references to it.
Most relate to religious people / powerful people being offended over what Jesus was doing.
And what was Jesus doing?
As Paul is quoted as saying - "he went around doing good"
I am not convinced that Jesus was being malicious and purposefully looking for ways to offend people, He offended people because was doing what He believed God had asked to do.

For any of you still willing to read I do truly hope the following helps us all. And thank you for not writing me off just yet!

Depending on your Bible Translation there are generally on average around 5 passages dealing with the topic of offense in the New Testament.
Most interesting and telling to me is that there are normally 3 times the number dealing with forgiveness.

As a follower of Christ I firmly believe you don't have an inherit right to be offended, instead you have the God ordained power to forgive.
Scriptures tells us it is virtuous and to your glory to overlook an offense. (Proverbs 19:11)
Offended people are not better people in the long run, in fact than find it easier to become bitter people.

Here are couple of quick tips for dealing with it today:

1. Get it sorted and quickly
Matthew 5:23-25

2. Deal with it privately
Proverbs 17:9

3. Forgive and then forgive and then forgive
Matthew 18:21

Jesus hinted very strongly that this stuff would happen.
He didn't tell you to justify it, but to let you know how to navigate and then deal with it.

I will leave with this thought and my sincere prayer and hope we can all grow up more in this area. We should leading the way in overlooking offense and offering forgiveness.

“Being right, looking right, knowing you are right...are not more important than doing right!” 

Something to think about...

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

My battle with racism

As humans we have this very strange ability to be scared of your own kind. Change someones skins tone a few notches, music styles, cultural expression, culinary exploits, and suddenly someone whose DNA closely matches yours suddenly appears different some how?

Many years a go I recognised that I was more like other people than I cared to admit publicly.
In my heart I harboured thoughts that by definition made me racist, even if just a little. Can I just say that you can not "be a little racist" are or you aren't...

I am also convinced that every person no matter their background, race, or religion, struggles with this issue.
Sometimes I wonder if the person screaming they are not racist the loudest is many times actually screaming at themselves to not be racist? Just a thought.

All I can do is share some of my journey very briefly in the hope it helps maybe even one person?

And I want to make this very clear...
I am not an expert on this. I am not judging anyone on this.
My approach is based on what helped me on this journey.
And I am still on it. Still planning on staying on it.
I am also not convinced that tearing the world apart to build a new one, fuelled by fear and anger, will ever produce the utopia of harmony many purport to desire.

I grew up in a district without any or many faces of a different colour.
We lived in a farming area where as kids we were blissfully unaware that not everyone was like us. The world was smaller. Groups didn't connect outside their groups.
And one day some people arrived in the district who had darker skins tones. I remember hearing comments. And when supposed stereotypes were lived up, well that just reinforced the position already held.

One of the families had a daughter.
She was a great runner I remember and seemed desperate to fit in at our Primary School.
Then news came through during a long weekend that she had died of Pneumonia.
I know for myself and many others we struggled to understand how that could happen in our well to do district. Many I know stood at that school assembly the next week, stunned, silenced and I picked a little guilty feeling.

After moving to New Zealands largest city in my late teens to follow my dream of becoming a Rock Star I met Jesus. My whole life changed. My goals changed. I was becoming a different person.
In the Church I went to were people from all over the place. Some rich, some poor. Some with big issues, others with small. And the faces weren't all the same as mine.
Looking back this was a great first step for me.
I was exposed to 'the others' in the world. And I remember fondly getting to know an ex gang member with scary tattoos. I needed to interact with people like him!

Not long after this new world opened up I was invited to an Indian culture based Church.
Before we went to minister to them, it was explained they did things differently. They had the men and women seperate in services.
The time would finish with us being invited to have lunch after the service.
That actually scared me the most.
What if I don't like the food. I had never really had curry and spice.
Would I pay a price that would be paid in a bathroom hence forth?
But it turned out completely different to my preconceived ideas.
They were so loving, encouraging and friendly. And the food was amazing!!!
They sat each of us down one by one and prayed amazing prayers over our lives.
I went from fearful to a fan over those few short hours.

In the late 90's I had the opportunity to spend 2 weeks in Russia.
To be honest I was pretty ill-prepared for this trip!
I learned some phrases of their language on the way over on the flights.
You need to understand that I grew up during the Cold War. As kids and then into our teens, we lived in fear of nuclear war and it was the Russians who would be to blame.
That upbringing does something to you. I can see that now.
The upshot of those two weeks is that I discovered that they are also amazing people. Willing to sacrifice anything of theirs to make your time with them better.
To be honest, they made New Zealand hospitality look pretty lame.

One final little story...
I have had the privilege of organising large events which include people from all backgrounds and sometimes even cultures these last few years.
2 years ago we began purposefully including aspects from Maori Culture in our programming, of which I was completely ignorant of. Graciously a man and his wife helped me understand something of the Powhiri. Guided me through it step by step, never once making me feel stupid. They answered every question. Translated every phrase. And then to my shock they asked me to speak in their language at the event. It was one of the most nerve racking events of my life but also the most profound.
It did something pretty special in me that still gives me goosebumps as I think about it and type this.

So what is my point?
What is the takeaway from all this?

My personal opinion on curing racism is not protest, anger, or worse.
It is exposure.
Without exposure, ignorance has a bed to multiply in.

Don't try and go from zero to hero, you won't be able to make it.
I simply would encourage you to ask God first to deal with your heart.
Second ask God to give you opportunity to interact with another people, another culture.
Commit to a journey of discovery and let what you experience influence your heart.
Everyone is scared - but fear unaddressed again leads to prejudice.
God will help you if you are keen and humble!

We are all made in the image of God.
So dear Christian hating someone who is different is kind of like hating God.
Sorry not sorry to say that.
Don't panic, just press into Him.
Ask Him to help you with this struggle if it is yours.
And the opportunity to expand your world with people not like you...

Something to think about...

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Day 56 : Covid-19 Lockdown in Taupo : "River or Rain"

Grace is amazing.
It is a gift from God through Jesus Christ.
Not a single person deserves Gods grace and yet He pours it out lavishly.
So good!

Grace is amazing.
It has the power to lift ones life from where it is now to something better.
To the lost and broken, grace is the platform to help them rise above, find hope and healing, and move onto life in all its fullness just as God as promised.
So good!

Now to flick back to the river vs rain part...
And don't get wound up about the generalisations...

If you see grace as like a river you potentially see grace as very good.
You want it to flow into your life. To keep flowing into your life.
You swim in it once you think you can trust it.
You float along in its current.
And it takes you to new and exciting places.

From my many experiences, I have encountered many who love this grace.
They grab hold of it gratefully to rescue them from what has happened in their lives. Sometimes to help them recover from the bad choices that we are all wrestle with along life's journey.

Then there is a moment. It comes at some point to everyone.
Where the river is no longer simple and safe, where rapids appear, and the grace river is no longer as they expect.
This is where someone hurts them either intentionally but most of the time unintentionally.
This is where a leader doesn't meet an unwritten expectation.
This is where a Pastor like me isn't as perfect as we all hoped.
When grace is seen only to be a river flowing into a life, they can potentially struggle, get offended, fire off some shots, and many times walk away.

If you see grace like rain, I think this takes it to a whole new level.
Just as rain comes via precipitation to even create a river in the first place, this is where we see grace as flowing in and then through our lives.
Where we recognise there is a mysterious and yet divine cycle to the process.
Rain never makes a choice as to whether where it falls deserves it. It just does it.
Rain doesn't judge the worthiness of the soil. It never rationalises the fruit of its endeavours.
Rain rains. It can do no other.

I want to encourage you, as I did over the weekend to those who tuned in, to go on a fresh journey exploring grace.
To make sure it is raining into your life and through.
To make sure we are not holding back from receiving it or passing it on.
I believe our lives should have grace like rain.

Grace is the defining characteristic of God's amazing character.
Can I encourage you to make it yours as well?

Something to think about...