Wednesday, April 29, 2009

International Days... who says?

Apologies for what you will read... it is me ranting... but this has got under my skin.

I heard on Breakfast this morning that today is 'International Noise Awareness Day.' Yesterday I heard something as pathetic being promoted. Every time I hear such things I say to myself, 'who the .... says so?'

So I googled international days. It seems that the UN, UNESCO, WHO etc all have decided that there are international days to be celebrated around the world. There are international decades and years.

For example at http://www.un.org.au/Page.aspx?element=16&category=1 theoretically Jan 27 was the 'International Day of Commemoration of the Victims of the Holocaust.' That is fair enough. There are days for 'social justice', 'mother language day', 'women's day', 'international day for the elimination of racial discrimination', 'world meteorological day', 'remembrance of the victims of slavery and transatlantic slave trade etc etc. There is a 'water day' too, what the heck is that? There is 'mine awareness day'! Hehehe! Did you just know you missed 'World Book and Copyright Day' on 23 April? What the! Who decides this stuff. Some of it you can see has something worth remembering in it. But 'noise awareness day?' It is not hard to see the agendas here. Where is, world JC day? Or the World Day of Telling Multi-National Organisations to Stop Telling us What Day it is!' There's a 'World Teachers Day.' What about a 'World Janitors Day' or World Car Salesperson Day' or 'World Pastor's Day'? Who decides this stuff. There is World Diabetes day? Why Diabetes? Why not, erectile disfunction? Or world nose day? Heck, there is a World Mountain day! Don't miss that one, its in December! Actually, the UN ones are an attempt at social justice at least I suppose. But who decides?

Who decides on 'World Noise Awareness Day'? There is a power out there telling us how to live our lives. I am all for government as society needs to be ordered, protected, preserved, provided for etc. Paul understood this well (see Rom 13; Tit 3:1) as did Peter (1 Pet 2:12-17). But what is this?

There's a whole lot more on http://www.education.nic.in/unesconew/unesco-Internationaldays.asp. These include 'world poetry day', 'Africa day' (what about Niue day?), there is world space week (I am sure the aliens appreciate it), international day of tolerance (for everything probably except conservative Christianity?), world television day (what! is that the day we sit for 24 hours and watch it?), there is world day of solidarity with Palestinian people (what about other people's who are oppressed?). Did you also know about these years: Cultural Heritage Year (2002), Ecotourism (2002), Mountains year! (2003), the Year of Rice (2005) (why rice? I am sure there are reasons, but why not Taro?), Year of Micro Credit (2005). Yay, there is the Year of Sport and Physical Education (lots of people hated that one cause they had to do exercise all year 2005).

Then there are decades coming up. Yay! Can't wait. We are in 2005-2014 is the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development! More good news, 2003-2012 is UN Literacy decade, so that everyone will read... ah, but what language? Damn. Got to be English surely? Maori? MMMM? Even better we are about to end the Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World (2001-2010). Thank God, cause now kids are all safe at last! It really works this stuff. For example 1997-2006 was the International Decade for the Eradication of Poverty! And there is now no poverty left in the world. I am so thankful for this stuff. It is a thrill to think someone or someone's are on 6 figure salaries at the UN and UNESCO coming up with it. The power of this stuff is mind boggling! You can go to the website and see more if you life.

For me, it is all humbug. It seems a nice idea but what is the point? Only Breakfast Show hosts take any notice. School of Rock says it well, it is 'the man'. Or that hilarious movie, Undercover Brother... there are powers, forces telling us how to live our lives. They go over the top. There assumptions need to be critiqued. Actually I couldn't find 'world noise awareness day' so there must be someone else out there making this skubala up!

So for me, every day is Easter, everyday is Pentecost, every day is new creation and life, every day is God has come and we must work with him and by his power toward that day when he returns and all is restored. As for all these 'days' creators, get off my back! Who says?

Better take a chill pill and do some real work... but what is work? Is there a 'work day' to help me. Hope so, cause then I can take the rest of my life off.

We Not Me Confession: A Hypocrites Dilemma

I have a confession to make. I am a theorist on the 'we not me' question. It goes like this. I now theoretically fully agree with the notion that Christianity is a 'we' sport, that I should live for community, embrace community, be committed to hanging with the 'unhangable', be community orientated in my thinking. Yes, yes, yes. But sadly the truth is that I deeply struggle with it. Perhaps it is the introversion of middle age hitting me? Or is it, as I suspect, the struggle of most westerners. You see, we have been raised to be individualistic, to be private, to question, to internalise, to think 'me' not 'we'. It is the same with materialism; I despise it, but am a keen participant. I am not good at it however and so am not rich. But I want to be! I deny it, but I am a bald faced liar. Every day, without fail, more times than I admit, I think about money and what I 'need' it for. It is the same with community. I cherish 'me' time. I groan when this lovely community minded woman at church promotes another hospitality event. You see we have this lady who is a zealot for this stuff and she is brilliant at it. But deep down I don't want another Sunday lunch, fellowship event, fair or church working B. I want to do my thing. So, I am really one of those people Jesus called out 'hypocrite' to. I hate to admit it but it is true. I am a 'me minded' plonka in a world that needs 'we minded people' to lead the way.

My observation as a pastor was that many are the same. They are not community minded. The Gospel grips them and they realise that they should be. They become concerned to see community and promote it. Others get excited by it. But then when community comes, it is too hard, it costs too much, they are ill equiped to manage it, so then they fall back from it.

Still, I usually love it and embrace it when I am in it. Like Parachute. I hate it, and I love it. I hate it because of the heat, the hassle, the crowds, the exhaustion, the speakers who are usually average (not all!); it is a struggle. But then it is always great when I am there, an experience I won't forget. So, there is the dilemma of community for a me man. How about you? What is your experience? How do we get on the solution side of this one, cause I am theologically convinced, we have to.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Paul, the Novel

Back! Gulf Harbour is a hole by the way. Little boxies on the hillside, 'little boxes made of ticky-tackey... and they all look just the same.' Still, it was cheap and we had fun.

Anywho, I read 'Paul, A Novel' by Walter Wangerin Jr. It is one of those books I am not sure what to do with. On the one hand he is to be congratulated for writing it. Well done, writing books is not easy. Such books can bring the text alive, help unbelievers get a grip on things. He did a good job in some ways. He moved back and forth across characters, brought out Paul's high view of women, linked into the social background especially Seneca, Nero's advisor. But on the whole I struggled with it. Why?

For a start he does not begin with Paul's early years in Tarsus. Scholars downplay this dimension of his upbringing. It was there that he would have learnt Torah, learnt the Greco-Roman culture etc. He could have done some going back perhaps? He also failed to really account for those years in Jerusalem under Gamaliel, that could have been fun.

He drove a wedge between Paul and James overplaying, as many older scholars have done, the supposed Jerusalem-Paul tension. I suppose it is because of James 2 in this case. He made out that James was not positive to Paul really until the end. This is over-reading hints of possible tension. Surprisingly he did not do the same with Paul and Peter, not that I think there was much in this.

His chronology was all over the place and very liberal based on his probable low view of the historicity of Luke's account. For example, he places Galatians in the mid 50's which, although a position many hold, simply does not in my view work. He aligned Gal 2 with the Jerusalem Council which again, while a credible view, is no where near as convincing as alighing Gal 2 with Acts 11. He sees 2 Corinthians as three letters. He is a North Galatian theorist building in a supposed visit to northern towns when there is no record of him going there. I am not sure what he was doing with Philippians although he quotes it at the end of Paul's life suggesting he sees it as Paul's last letters. He then makes out that Priscilla wrote letters in Paul's name at the end. Now that is really pushing it, a distant vague possibility at best from many angles. He takes liberal historical lines. This would all get very confusing for an unbeliever who wanted to read Paul after this. Still, I suppose he has good scholarly support for all of this.

His characterisation is what annoyed me the most. I quite liked his Timothy and Barnabas. But on the whole I struggled. He made out that Judas Barsabbas mentioned only in Acts 15 in the NT was a vicious opponent of Paul, a Judaiser. Was he? He was one who delivered the verdict of the council, hardly likely to me? He developed this character Mattathias who is supposedly the father of Paul's sister as another Jewish opponent. Really! Paul's sister gets one mention in Acts 23:16 only in reference to her son who alerted the authorities to a plot on Paul's life. His dealings with Corinthians was interesting. He made out that Erastus was the caricature of a fat, self-indulged Roman leader-patron. He might have been anything like this! His portrayal of Sosthenes was interesting and not so bad. At one point the evangeliser of Colossians Epaphras has a scrap and beats up some who are attacking he and his mates! His dealing with women while in some ways positive, was overlypositive. Lydia, Phoebe and Priscilla are glorious women. Yet there is no mention of Euodia and Syntyche who are scrapping. He is clearly seeking to bring out the egalitarian Paul and conveniently does not bring in the Corinthian problems with women at all. I am all for an egalitarian reading of Paul but we have to be careful not to push too far or our argument becomes self-defeating.

His view of Paul too is kind of difficult although possibly fair bringing out his blend of love and harshness. He makes out he is almost a cripple by the end, has Priscilla getting him out of Ephesian prison by pretending to be him! Not sure he has it right on these!

I find it risky business to develop characters in this way. Perhaps not for a historian, but for one working from faith we have to be careful not to demean people. This all alerts us to the danger of over-psychologisation and characterisation of biblical characters. It is risky stuff. Preachers do a lot of this unthinkingly. These people may have been anything like these points of view.

He almost does nothing with Rome and the end of Paul's life. This was a huge climax. No mention of Spain, any other journey, even if he felt Paul never made it. He does not imagine Paul before Nero, his death. What a climax these would have been. As such, it is a weak ending novel; and an ending makes a novel! He downplays Athens before the Areopagus, that could have been fun too. He does cleverly deal with Paul's Roman citizenship I feel, arguing that he did not have his documents with him, even it if is total supposition. Another thing that interested me was the way he dealt with tongues. Titus dances saying baa-baa-baa! What is that? Very strange stuff. At times it all gets a bit naff actually, with people dancing around etc. But perhaps Christians are naff so that is OK.

So, I am not sure about this book. I would not recommend it to an unbeliever or a new convert but to a student of the NT and Paul with a good intial understanding, yes. Yes it is well worth a read, in that it is a point of reference for discussion. It makes us imagine. It makes us go back to the text and think. It would be an interesting book to use as a starting point for a home group or discussion for Christians.

So, good on you Walter. Not my cup of tea. But, I respect you and your book. However, I think there is room for another one perhaps...

Friday, April 24, 2009

Away!

Four days away with Emma... woohoo... better behave ourselves. Not too much wine... Keown, out.

SANZAR

Does NZ rugby need SANZAR? Good question. Not sure they do. For me, it would work a lot better with NZ playing Australia and maybe the Pacific nations. There would be a loss of revenue but the travel in the Super 14 is totally outrageous. I say, let it go, and form a new thing with Australia, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Japan. The AB's can play a couple of tests off shore to make the money that's needed. There would be a new level of interest in rugby if that happened. Bring back some tours. Cut South Africa free. Do it!

'We not me' Again

Now that is interesting. I googled 'we not me' and found that there is a group called 'we not me movement' http://www.wenotme.us/. There is no indication that they are Christian, but they are onto it.

The question that revolves in my mind is, 'how can we break free from our me obsession?' The problem is, I live in my mind and see the world through my eyes, I feel the world through my senses etc. I am locked in. That movie 'Being John Malkovich' explores this idea. If only we can get inside the minds of others. The truth is, we wouldn't want to, we would experience their internal dialogue, and probably go mad!

Seems to me we need to become great listeners, we need to engage people deeply in relationships and then seek to understand their world and how they see it. I think the truth is I talk to much and listen too little, always have and probably always will.

As an economic unit who must produce to keep the system going, how does one break free for the we! And the more I worry about life, am locked into my own myopic and narcissistic concerns and desires, the less I am living the we and not the me. As Queen sing, 'I want to break free.' Ah, questions, questions, challenges.

Whatever the solution I know this, I need to learn to live in the we! I need to commit to being in the PEOPLE of God not just live out a pietistic individual vertical 'me and God' faith. I need to commit not only to being 'we' but serving in it and counting the cost. I need to cut across 'people I like' to break down barriers of age, gender, race, intellect, etc etc.

What a rant. Got to go, some me stuff to do. Most importantly at this early hour coffee.

One other thing. Facebook and other social networks create a new kind of 'we'. I have found perhaps 50 old friends from my past so far. Found another one last night. I am now staying connected to people in a new way. There are new e-we systems forming. Time will tell what that will do to our world.

Shalom

Thursday, April 23, 2009

'We not me'

Although it is a gross generalisation and I am sure there are many exceptions, it seems clear to me that the church in the west is now about 'me' and not about 'we.' The individualism which blights western thinking and civilisation has beset the church.

Church has become another place to consume to satisfy a need. We go to restaurants and cafes to satisfy our need for food. We go to movies, sports games, watch the box, surf the net and more to satisfy our desire for enjoyment and entertainment. We go to shops to satisfy our wants and needs, to buy the things to make our lives great. We are a me-driven society. We are consumers. We are materialists. We pick and choose from the many options open to us almost completely from a 'me-centred' perspective.

Our law favours the me over the we, unlike many other nations, where the 'we' drives legislation. Our education system is designed for independent thought, we are obsessed with personal freedom, we hate to be dictated to by 'the man,' whoever the man is! We are in a 'me-centred' world and everything is about me.

Church then is treated by many in the same way. We go there to get out spiritual needs satisfied, it is about me. So we go to the place to find the right worship mix, right teaching, right peer group (like people my own age or 'like me'), right children's program, right youth program, right coffee, right time, right location etc etc, just for me. We will even drive past 20 churches just to find the right one for 'me.' It is 'me' and not the 'we.' We are spiritual consumers. When it no longer meets our needs, we leave and move on. When the kids out grow youth group, we leave for another church that fits 'me.' Most of the time we don't even stop to explain why and thank the people who have led the church.

Those leading the church play the game. It is about bums on seats. Get the 'me's' in the door by satisfying those needs. This means we need to have a great product for the spiritual market; right language, right look, right style of worship and preaching, right image, right niche, right coffee, right time, right bla bla bla. We seek to find what it is that will make the consumers come. In some instances the concern is to find a way to attract unbelievers, but most of the time we are seeking to draw from a limited market of believers people to fill it up. This will get us more money so we can have more programs for the consumers.

I have led churches and I admit the pull of this. Your job is on the line if you don't bring em in, at least keep the church the same size, and better, grow it. Doesn't matter if they are there because you are a better product. If we just get the music right, the preaching right, the kids and youth program right, they will come. But why? I unwittingly fell into a snare. I played the 'me' card. It is not about the 'me' it is about the 'we'.

This is worrying me. Church is about 'we' not me. Christianity is a team sport, and there is no 'I' in team.' Problem is there is a 'me' in the team and we miss it. We have forgotten that the essential unit when we get saved is 'me.' When we decide for Jesus, accepting his decision for us, we become Christians. From that moment on, the 'me' becomes the 'we.' We join a body and we are there to serve. Christ embodied this. He left heaven and came to earth as a 'me' and instantly set up a team. How far did he push this, to death! It is ALL about 'we' and not about me. The struggle of Christianity is to live for others completely, prepared to give our lives for the team. Jesus then said to the team, go and bring in the world. Yes, all of them. Every nation. Every person. They are all invited to the feast. Every one of them is invited into my team.

Church is a people who gather together as one people, and serve. One of the problems of the 'me and not we' approach is that we tend to favour churches that ask little of us and entertain us and feed us well. They are great places for 'me'. So we rush off to big churches which have lots of people, we can hide in the 'we' and be 'me'. We don't have to do much because there are professionals doing the work. They have the bucks to pay for a really good show, entertain the kids and youth. So we gather in big groups which appear to be doing well, and other churches are in trouble. We can fit church into our busy 'me' lives in which we self-actualise and fulfil ourselves. We are free to be me!

What about all of us going to the nearest bible believing church from our homes. We go to serve. We go not for 'me' but the 'we'. We don't go cause the program but we go to wash feet and serve. We go to do what has to be done to have worship that glorifies God, where people are cared for, where the community is reached with the love of Christ. We go to support some struggling pastor who is exhausted trying to 'raise the dead.' We also live in the community instead of travelling across the city to get there, so we can invite our neighbours, we can witness in the community and stop the fragmentation of society (that's another blog!). We go to meet people unlike us, to do the hard yards of tough relationships, help with the ministries and get our hands dirty. We actually sacrifice 'me' for the 'we.' Hey that's what Jesus did!

We go and we don't give up after the pastor says something we don't like, the kids program is not great (its up to parents to raise their kids spiritually!). We stop being thin hided whimps who run when someone says we don't like. We hang in there in relationships learning what it means to love the unloveable and be the unloveable that others then love. We get involved and we make sacrifices to do so. We become members not just spectators. We join the team and don't just watch them at work. We work for change. We contribute. We don't moan about the music, we support it and encourage it. We use our gifts for its growth. We stop behaving like immature 'me' consumers and we are 'we' Christians.

We have sold out to the world on this one and we have not realised it. It is a dangerous game to join the consumerism and apply it to church. What happens is 'me' becomes god and it is idolatry. We have enthroned ourselves and usurped God. Church will always ultimately lose in this pattern. We must refind the 'we'. More importantly, we need to find the 'thee', but that is the next blog.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Veitch and the Importance of Character

I have just read the Herald article on the frantic search for Tony Veitch last night (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10567358&pnum=2). Not good! I pray for him that he can find himself in the wake of this fiasco and be restored. What gets me is how we have a glorious example of the importance of character over charisma. I think it is fair to say that, whether you like him or not, Tony is one of the most brilliant broadcasters we have. He is dynamic, articulate with the gift of the gab. I listened to him for a few years on Radio Sport and while he did not have the depth of Martin Devlin, he was quite dynamic. He looks great on TV. He speaks a million miles an hour. He is a great interviewer. All in all, he's got the goods. He's about as good as it gets in terms of talent.

Yet this episode reveals how deeply flawed he is in terms character. He is clearly cracking under the pressure. Kicking a person in the back, even as a one off, reveals a tendency to violence under pressure. Suicide attempts reinforces this. His weakness is his character.

He is not alone in this. We are all broken to a certain degree. I remain a flawed man myself. But for the grace of Christ...

The teaching of Christ and the apostles repeatedly make the point that it is what is going on the heart that matters most. Our characters are the genuine test of who we are. We only find out what we are really like when the pressure comes on. Do we respond in anger, violence, self-destruction etc? I get the feeling that Christ is more concerned in the how of what we do than what we do. Do we do it with grace? Are we characterised by the fruit of the Spirit? And not just the nine listed in Galatians (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control), but other attributes like humility, integrity and more.

This has an important edge for our churches. Churches are falling prey to charisma. The crowds seek charismatic dynamic leaders who have the gift of the gab. They want to be entertained. Leaders fall prey to the game, seeking to entertain, be dynamic, spice up what they do to meet the desires of the throng. Far too often such leaders fall usually into sexual sin or perhaps monetary misdemeanours. More incidious is the problem of power, as they lead in an unchristian manner, exerting power over their people. This is not often seen in he public domain but in the boardroom of the church, these leaders have a trail of crushed workers who come and go in their wake.

What is needed is people of depth who have strong Christian hearts and character. None of us are perfect and we are all broken and weak to various degress. But these leaders are in control of their emotions, they lead but with servant hearts and gentle grace. They take people with them and do not manipulate or dominate. They cultivate their characters by getting help when they need it, maintaining their prayer life. They seek consistency between their private and public lives. They have accountability, mentors who oversee them and ensure that they do not fall to the sins of the flesh. They take the breaks that they should, their day off a week, holidays. There priorities are not their work, but their relationship with God, their marriages and their families.

I pray for Tony. He is a gifted man. Often a person can come through a terrible fall stronger and better. It can lead to greater things. It alls depends on how we face the failure. Do we allow it to make us better, or bitter? Do we get the help we need to find out why we are like this and gain restoration for our hearts and character.

As for me it reminds me as a Christian leader that what is going on on the inside is what matters. What comes out of a persons heart is what makes a person unclean/clean. The placement of 1 Cor 13 about love between two chapters on spiritual gifts powerfully makes the point. May God bring restoration to Tony. May he do so to me.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Pattern of Christ' Death, Our Pattern

I have just finished working through the so-called 'Christ-hymn' of Phil 2:6-11. Awesome piece of Scripture. It has to be one of the most difficult pieces of the Bible too. Scholars debate it deeply.

They question whether it originally existed as a hymn sung in the early church. If so, what are its origins? Did it emerge from some Jewish or Hellenistic Christian? Is it influenced by some Hellenistic or other religious idea? Is Jesus here being contrasted with Adam, with Wisdom, with Satan, with a dying and rising god, with the emperor; or, is he supreme above all? Was it written by Paul or some other earlier Christian? Should we interpret it against the backdrop of what we think its origins are? Should we interpret it as Paul's work, and do so against the backdrop of the unity and mission problem in Philippians?

Then, there is the structure of the hymn. There are possible chiasms, couplets, links (e.g. form of God/servant), dependent clauses, participles and more. Then there is the view that if it originally was a hymn, then did Paul add lines. Many argue for example that he added 'even death on a cross;' and 'in heaven, on earth, and under the earth.'

Then there is the meaning of difficult Greek words like morphe which means form and usually refers to the appearance of something. Is Paul merely saying Jesus 'appeared' to be in this form? What harpagmos mean, that Jesus did not grasp for something he had (unlike Adam, Satan, Emperor); or is it that he did not exploit, grasp onto, or exploit something he had (i.e. divinity)? And what does it mean for Christ to 'empty himself.' These are hotly debated.

Some think it says nothing about Jesus' divinity initially; rather, Jesus, unlike Adam, did not grasp after divine equality. As a result he was exalted i.e. adoptionism. Then there is the vexed question of what every knee 'in heaven... under the earth' means? Are they spiritual powers or human powers or both. And what does it mean that Jesus is 'the name above all names.' How far do we push this? Questions, questions, questions.

As I look at the hymn and have studied Philippians, I take it more in the traditional sense. That is, Jesus being in essence God, did not seek to exploit or use his divine equality for his own advantage and gain. Rather, he gave it up to save the world. The passage shows the movement of Jesus from divinity, to humanity, to service, to death on a cross. This to me is the climax of the first part of the hymn, God on a cross for love's sake.

Paul is in Roman prison about to face Nero and probably death. Paul either writes it or uses it to challenge the Philippians. The Philippians are facing a similar challenge (1:30). They are also divided, some seeking personal glory and ambition (2:3) and they are scrapping (2:14-15; 4:2-3). Paul is urging them to rediscover what it means to be 'in Christ.' The words would be greatly challenging, telling them to keep going all the way as Christ did, in obedience (check out 2:12 here).

The second part of the passage would also have been greatly comforting to Paul and the Philippians as they lived the challenge of being persecuted for Christ. It tells them and us that we will receive a reward for our hard slog for Christ, eternal life. We may not gain the 'name that is above every name' as Christ did, but we will be 'in that name' i.e. 'in Christ.' We will be welcomed into eternity, granted the prize, experiencing the joy of having our bodies transformed into indestructable bodies and live in the renewed creation... bring it on! (Check out 1:19-23; 2:17; 3:8-14; 4:3).

Christ is the supreme model or pattern for our lives in this text. No matter what glorious attributes we may have (see Paul's list in Phil 3:4-6); we are to die to ourselves and emulate Christ. Christ left the glory of equality with God, the form of God, and became one of us, taking up up the form of a slave and obeying God all the way, all the way to death. And not just any death, he died the most humiliating death of all, death on a cross. Naked and humiliated before the power of Rome and the forces of evil, he was utterly destroyed and his mission seemingly ended. Yet here is where the power of God is found, in the power of the cross, the power of service, the power of love.

This is one of the greatest pieces of literature ever written. It unlocks the secret of the universe. That secret is love. Love that dies to save. Love that takes up a towel to wash feet. Love that takes up a cross and follows Jesus. Love that denies self and lives for others (check out 2:4).

Too many Christians today live in Sunday and forget Friday. The power of life and resurrection is loose in the universe and it will win. But in he meantime we are to live as Christ lived. We get up every morning, we pray for strength and hook up with God to get reminded of why we are doing what we are doing (to save, restore and build God's world). We take up the towel and cross and we press on. We refuse to relent. We are here to serve, serve, serve. How far are we to serve? Only until death! At times we feel like stopping for a bit of pampering. Consider Christ and his life? This is our life. The cross is not only our salvation it is our pattern. It is love revealed. It is the heart of God seen. Jesus on a cross was God on a cross.

Incidentally, if we take the view that God is omniscient, he planned this from the start. Wow! He planned to create us, he set it up so that we would live forever with him, he gives us the option of accepting his free offer, he knew we would reject it and rebel against him, yet he knew he would step in and save us and in the most amazing way. How much does he love us? Too much for me to know. Got to go, hard to see the screen.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Easter 2009

I have had the most memorable Easter I can remember. I went to Motutapu Easter Camp and had the privilege of being camp speaker. What a joy.

I spoke on the theme 'what is God up to on planet earth' sharing how God yearns for relationship with every human being and invites them into that relationship. This was the intention of creation, that he would live forever with humanity in a glorious world, that they would live in harmony, that they would enjoy the freedom of living in this world using creation and caring for it.

However, this relationship was ruptured through the Fall at which time humanity rebelled against God, choosing to eat of the fruit of the tree of choice. This separated them from God and caused the human heart to be broken, their image bearing to be marred, community to be broken and creation itself ruptured. It is as if a virus has been downloaded into the mainframe of creation.

Yet God was not satisfied to leave it there. Driven by love, he determined to save us through Christ. Christ died and rose again in history and calls us back into relationship. We are invited to accept this. If we do, we are reunited with God as he intended. We are then to be his agents, cosmic transformers going out into God's world to transform and save. We are to gather as his people in community, showing the world what God's community might look like. We are to invade with love and service every part of God's world, and share through our lives the gospel of invitation grace.

I challenged the campers that there are two great interconnected spheres he is calling us to be cosmic transformers in. One is the church, the other is the world outside the church including all of society and creation itself. I suggested that we are to be involved in both, all Christians deeply committed to service to the church, and engagement in the world.

It seems to me that we are usually wired to be vocationally involved in one or the other. I urged them to seek God and find where their hearts beat. The Church is in trouble, desperately needing quality servant leaders with sound theology; people who will use their talents to accept the call to be transformers in God's church. I challenged some of them to become ministers; whether girls or guys! The World is in trouble too. It gravely needs leaders with a Christian world view, equipped to go and be servant transformers in all parts of society. I attacked dualism telling them that one is not better than the other and that they need to connect with who they are, what they are wired for.

I was so excited with the camp. I am not sure of the numbers, but there were tens of first time commitments to Christ, and many more recommitments. There was a glorious prayer time on the Sunday afternoon at the catacooms and a wonderful outpouring of the Spirit on the Sunday night. God is good! As I looked out on the campers on the Monday morning, the sun was shining and I knew that there is hope for God's church. Christ said, I will build my church! He will do so! Nothing can stop him!

It was if I was Ernest Rutherford and these people were the atom. What is needed is to split the atom and release the nuclear energy within it. As I write this I realise that every human being is like an atom in this sense. Absolutely brimming with astonishing potential placed in them by God. What is needed is for us to surrender to the Spirit and allow him to completely lead and direct us in every area of life. Release your power through us O God.

So, it was a great weekend. I am humbled by the B.E.A.U.Tiful people I met.

So to God... all glory and praise. Thank you Jesus. I am humbled!