Saturday, May 21, 2011

Happy Birthday Nina

Today is not only the supposed end of the world, it is the commemoration of the death of my little sister Nina, who would have turned 40 today. I remember her vividly. She was born in Rarotonga this day, 40 years ago. She grew up in the Cooks and we returned home when she was around 5. I was 10 years older, the proud big brother. I remember looking after her, changing her nappies, baby sitting, reading books endlessly to her. She taught me to love in many ways. She went to Pigeon Mountain Primary, Bucklands Beach Intermediate, and McLeans College. She was not sporty, but she was bright. She was also beautiful. She went off to University and did zoology. She had a tough time, lost her way, and her life went downhill. She had an ectopic pregnancy after and was damaged permanently. This caused her to spiral downhill. She got into drinking. Ultimately, she died some 17 years ago from an alcohol binge sadly – aged 23. The 6 day period of her coma was horrendous, death is never good; it is horrid.

Thankfully in the year leading up to her death we reconnected as brother and sister. I was able to share Christ with her through a letter and in person. In hospital, before being put into a coma and life-support, she confessed faith Christ as Lord with me. I live in hope that she is with the Lord.

Today, I am sad, as you can imagine. Those of who have lost loved ones will know the emptiness, it fades, but is never filled. She was robbed of many years – sure, it was because of her own self-destructive behaviour, but she was a lovely woman who would have got through it and contributed greatly to the world. She reminds us that we need to take care of ourselves, watch that we don't allow us to spiral down with life's challenges, and turn to alcohol and drugs. There but for the grace of God go I if truth be known – on a number of occasions I did similar things in my youth.

It also tells us that, as in the parable of the workers in the vineyard, there is always hope. She is with the Lord and I look forward to our reunion – what a great and glorious day that will be.

For me I saw firsthand that day 17 years ago why the gospel is so important. Death is ours and God's final and most horrible enemy. Jesus came to deliver us from it. Thank God he has, for there is nothing that makes death lovely – I hate it. I will stand for life, will preach life, will believe for life – because Jesus has come and the resurrection of the death comes ever closer, made certain by the first-fruits Jesus, the first born from the dead. And life will win!

So, happy birthday Nina. I love you and miss you. I will never forget you. I can't pray to her, but God may you pass on my love – tell her she is never forgotten... until we meet again – stay gold!

May 21 the End of the World? Why you should enjoy the day and not worry, Part 3

I have had yet another thought of the return. One of the things that I ponder on a regular basis when thinking of the Second Coming is the way in which the Jews of the time envisaged the first coming of Messiah. Anyone who has looked into it even to a cursory level knows that the Jews at the time were divided over what to expect. Some anticipated God's direct intervention with no Messiah involvement (e.g. Sadducees). Others expected two Messiahs (Qumran), a priestly and a political. Some envisaged a warrior Messiah (Zealots), a political Messiah (Pharisees), others more spiritual and apocalyptic. It is hard to be sure what dominated, there were multiple expectations.

It all came down to interpretation of interpretation of the texts of Judaism. When Jesus did turn up, most Jews didn't recognise him at all. Most saw him as a prophet at best (e.g. Mark 6, 8). When he didn't forge an alliance with the Jewish leaders and lead them in a revolt against Rome, but focussed on polemic against Israel's leaders and acts of grace and mercy rather than power signs to impress the Jewish elite, they didn't understand him at all. In fact they sought to kill him. By his death he was even rejected as Messiah by his followers. The only two who got it at the cross were a Roman soldier and a mercenary killed at his side. Take for example the travelling disciples on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24 who spoke of Jesus or Nazareth a prophet mighty in deed and power. Even in Acts 1:6 they were still anticipating him leading a revolt to restore the kingdom of Israel, they had no idea of the scope of what Jesus was about. They didn't see that a crucified Messiah was essential to save the world and show it how to live – if only we would! The idea of a crucified Messiah was a stumbling block to them, they didn't understand God's regent coming in weakness, suffering, and death. The truth is that it is only looking back over the Scriptures of the OT that we can see Jesus in its texts, especially the Servant Songs of Isaiah, 42, 49, 50 and particularly, 53 (cf. Ps 22). They had glimpses of the Messiah like his birthplace and Davidic descent, but they were in the main veiled, found scattered over their Scriptures hard to find and interpret. Now we can see how he fulfilled them looking back – nothing like the 20/20 vision of looking back.

So we come to the Second Coming. We have the sacred Scriptures of both testaments, and we seek to interpret them. We come up with a range of alternatives from pre-millennialism whereby Jesus returns before a thousand year period of rule on earth before the climax – or some unspecified time. Or we come up with a post-millennial construct with the current age moving positively to the point where God's kingdom reigns supreme. Or we adopt amilliennialism whereby this age is the millennium (figuratively) and Jesus returns at its end, and all comes to a climax. Then there is the tribulation; for pre-millenialists a seven year period of suffering which Jesus will return before (pre-trib), at its midpoint (mid-trib), or afterward (post-trib). For the first of these two trib positions, add the rapture based supposedly on 1 Thess 4; Matt 24; Rev 4, whereby Jesus returns and whisks his people to be with him, leaving carnage on earth. Then there are the signs, anti-Christs, the preaching of the gospel across all nations, earthquakes, wars, persecutions, false Messiahs, etc. We pour over the texts of both testaments and seek to work out a timetable. The truth is, that there is so much apocalyptic layering and uncertainty about which texts apply to what period if at all, that it is all like looking through a mirror dimly at best (1 Cor 13).

I suspect we in reality will be like the Jews at the time of Christ. We will look back after his coming, in whatever way and form, and we will see it all there. We will say, 'wow, I never saw that, never applied that, got that wrong.' What matters is that Jesus will come back and we are to be ready (cf. Matt 25). It seems on the one hand to be very surprising and unexpected, like a thief in the night (e.g. 1 Thess 5). On the other hand it will be glorious, the world will see, it will be climactic and mighty (e.g. 2 Thess 1). I think wisdom suggests not to get too locked into much more than, Jesus is returning. Sure, there are signs, and as I have written in Chapter Four of my short book What's God Up To, I think we can know some things about it on the basis of the signs, but in reality we need to hang lightly to these. I ponder whether I should have said as much as I did in that chapter, I would hate to mislead God's chosen.

What we mustn't do is what Harold Camping has done. He thinks he has it all sorted. Like others with an apocalyptic bent and arrogant confidence in their ability to interpret Scripture above others, he has it all sorted. There have been over a 100 predictions of the return of Christ in the last century alone. As my last post notes, even in 50AD it was expected and misreported. I urge all Christians everywhere to consider Israel at the time of Christ. The tragedy was that Israel, generally speaking, rejected Jesus because they misread the hopes. Let's not do the same.

May 21 the End of the World? Why you should enjoy the day and not worry, Part 2

As I sat at the gym rowing a nice 15k, a passage came to mind from 2 Thess 2:1-11, it seemed kind of relevant. I thought I would quote it in full:

'Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters,
2
not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. 5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? 6 And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.'

This verse tells us a number of things, relevant to what is going on:

  1. At the time of the writing of 2 Thessalonians around AD 50, some two decades after Christ, people were speculating on the return of Christ; specifically, that he has come already, or is about to come a la the predictions of today. The clause 'either by a spirit' suggests some were claiming prophetically to that effect i.e. claiming through the Spirit. Such claims are 2000 years old! Seems some might have been forging letters from Paul claiming so, interesting.
  2. Paul's advice is not to be freaked out about it, 'shaken in mind, alarmed.' We shouldn't be either, not that I am. Not sure why I am wasting my time writing this actually. The truth is, I am stunned at the foolishness out there; that anyone would show the slightest degree of interest.
  3. Paul states emphatically, don't be deceived in any way e.g. today! Sounds a good idea. Not that I am. You?
  4. Paul talks of a massive rebellion, the revelation of some horrendous figure who will be the converse of everything Christ was and is; full of hubris, self-exalted, and who sees himself above all religious claims. Kind of an out-of-control Roman Emperor figure. This raises an interesting question. If indeed today is the day, then who has been this figure in the last years? Who is the anti-Christ, as if we accept this passage as true, he is alive and kicking and doing his thing right now (assuming today is the day)? Has anyone see the powerful signs and wonders from this figure? I must have missed something here.
  5. It seems in v.8 Jesus will destroy this person at his appearance, with his breath – sounds like some serious Spiritual halitotis (joking). Sounds the converse of creation where God breathed on Adam, and at John's version of the Great Commission where Jesus breathed on the disciples sending them with the Spirit in John 20:21 i.e. destruction rather than life-giving breath. So then, who is this figure? Can't be Osama, he is deceased. Kind of doesn't leave many options as I see the world, Obama? John Key? Julia Gillard? Putin? Keown? Joking. As Jim Carrey might say in Ace Ventura, Reheally!

Funny how this Camping doesn't read these verses. That the problem, convenient threading together of texts to come up with 2+2=5. The truth is today is not the day of reckoning. It is 1.28pm as I write this – in 4 and a half hours all will be revealed.

May 21 the End of the World? Why you should enjoy the day and not worry

So it's all over the news, even the secular media, the world is ending on May 21. Here I will give reasons why this is nonsense responding to the information behind the idea at http://www.ebiblefellowship.com/outreach/tracts/may21/:

  1. Jesus didn't even know the day or the hour. Despite his claims, we can't take this guy seriously! When he appeals to Dan 12:4, 9 it is nonsense, Jesus specifically taught we don't know when it will happen, and then gave a series of stories in Matt 25 to tell us to be ready on that basis – no one knows. There will be signs, but it will come as a thief in the night.
  2. His method of working through to the end of the world is nonsense. Check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0TUSYbrXplk; http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/under-god/post/may-21-2011-harold-campings-calculations-for-the-end-of-the-world/2011/05/18/AFja9b6G_blog.html. It is a form of Gnosticism, so common among Christians. They think they have the secret 'code' which gives them the gnosis ('knowledge'). It is nonsense because:
    1. The chronology of the Bible is incomplete and you cannot build anything certain on it. So the date of creation (11,013 BC), date of the flood (4,990 BC) is gloriously humorous and flawed.
    2. The specificity of dates is nonsense assuming certainty of the date of the birth of Jesus, 7BC. Who says? We are unsure, sometime 8-4BC likely. The date of Jesus' death is disputed by scholars, might be 33 AD April 1, but could be three years earlier.
    3. The idea that 1988 is the end of the church age is even more ridiculous. What is the 'church age'? It is not even mentioned in the Bible. Why are people at church now then? That is, to put it bluntly, wack!
    4. Quite why the tribulation has to be then and 23 years long is beyond me. Bizarre! Wonder if there are drugs involved.
    5. The idea that 1994, Sept 7 is the end of the tribulation, I have no idea! What tribulation? I am not aware that things were worse in the period he mentions! Then the time of the latter rain began? What is this time, not mentioned in the Bible again. He talks of a great multitude of people being saved? Where? Asia, there has been many, Africa? Christianity continues to decline in the west. This is, as Paul might call it in Phil 3, skubalon.
    6. The sequence of thought, 7 days (Gen 7:4)- 7,000 years - 'day is like a thousand years' (2 Pet 3:8) – certain numbers are divine – is abject futility. Who says the world is to last 7,000 years and that we should connect these ideas? Rubbish. On what basis does one connect these verses?
    7. Not sure why the world has to end 13,023 years after creation. Sounds random at best.
    8. I kind of think the world is a little older than this, even though my 6-day creationist friends will disagree.
    9. The idea that Amos 3:7 should mean Harold Camping has the knowledge too, is fanciful.
    10. I love that the ark was shut on the 17th day of the second month of Noah's calendar – one can see the logic then of May 21... Tui Ad!
  3. The whole rapture idea is bunkum in my view:
    1. Matt 24 speaks not of believers taking off into the air, but the believers are the ones left behind as in the Flood analogy. None of the other texts give the impression of people leaving other behind.
    2. It is likely that Jesus will return, the end will come, and we will live on in this world, and not be whisked away to heaven. The millennium ideas says this, if it is literal (and I am not convinced). Romans 8 says this. The visions of the prophets and Revelation speak of a world with nations and God living with humanity. Sounds like this one renewed to me.
    3. Even it if is the way things will go, the dating stuff is classic.
    4. The idea of a rolling rapture around the world at a set time is even more stupid – God help us and this man.

So the idea that May 21st is Judgment Day with the rapture beginning ending a 23 year great tribulation is the most outrageous and non-biblical argument I have ever heard. As one of those biblical scholars who apparently does not have time to study the bible properly, and do not have the inside word, Harold Camping in my view will be proved to be a false teacher and so a dangerous man – people are taking it seriously and selling up etc. I hope to see him come on global television and repent when it doesn't happen. There is nothing to suggest that this is correct. Paul and Jesus warned of people like this man who would lead people astray.

IF THERE IS ANYONE OUT THERE TAKING THIS SERIOUSLY, PLEASE RELAX, DON'T SELL UP, DON'T PUT YOUR PETS DOWN, DON'T GIVE YOUR MONEY AWAY, DON'T BE A FOOL! Talk tomorrow.

Please pray for Mindy and Amy

I have been frustrated lately. Being a lecturer at a bible college, Laidlaw, and having a wife who is a pastor, can become a little inward looking (to say the least). I love my life but I am usually researching or talking with Christians. Not that I have a problem with Christians! They are my family! Trouble is, I love talking to unbelievers and have been really frustrated lately and have been praying about this issue – asking God to lead me to more opportunities.

Anywho, I went shopping today and met up with Amy again. Amy works in the local Foodtown, a lovely Chinese woman. I spoke to her on the day of the Sept Christchurch earthquake when I was shopping and talked about how Esther, our youngest, was in Kaiapoi at the time, right on the epicentre, in a rickety old scout cabin. I told her how thankful I was. She told me of a woman she knew down there. Just a non-descript but real human encounter on a day NZers were kind of at a loss. Anyhow, today I bumped into her again. I often do, and she will ask about Esther, and I will point her out, as she works next door. Enough on that. Well today, I saw her, and we chatted. I asked her whether she believed in God. She said she and her husband want to, but they have seen no evidence. We got talking and I suggested she pray that God reveals himself to her. I told her how I did that years ago and over about 6 months came to that place. I plan to take her a mandarin translation of a little piece of work I am working on which explains the Christian message. She also told me that her brother has liver cancer and I said I would pray for him, but that were no guarantees. We talked about the Chinese underground church and more. Anywhy, please pray! Pray for Amy that she will receive a revelation of God. Pray that God does a miracle for her brother. She is so open. Please join me.

Then I went through the checkout and hooked up with Mindy. She is a loud American, lovely as pie. We got talking about things and I asked her if she was a religious person. She said she was, 'us Americans are God-fearing people,' she said. She then told me that she was brought up a Jew and believed in God and prayed. I told her that I followed a Jew, and that we are not far apart. I told her I thought Jesus was Messiah, she was very open, not at all fazed. Anyway, she then asked me what I thought about the end of the world today, and I told her that even Jesus didn't know the day or the hour, so I don't think we need to worry. It was nice. I did tell her he was coming back soon. When I left I said Shalom, and she was beaming. Such a lovely woman. Anywhen, please pray for her. Ask God to pour into her heart deeper understanding and fill her with desire to follow him.

It all goes to show that if you pray, stuff happens. I was really encouraged. Last weekend I met an old Christian friend, a cop. He told me that he had been experimenting lately about prayer and evangelism. He has been testing out what happens when he prays and when he doesn't. He is finding that when he prays, opportunities open up, when he doesn't they don't. He is a bright guy, not some deluded nut, has a degree in law, his father is the head of post-grad study at Auckland Uni, mum has a masters, sister has a doctorate, pretty full on family. Goes to show that if you ask, he leads. Upshot is, I am going to pray hard for Mindy and Amy, take them something to read, and I am going to pray more for opportunities – come Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Karpotic Renewal: It is time

A while ago I blogged on Philippians and suggested in the final paragraph that what is needed is a karpotic renewal (http://drmarkk.blogspot.com/2010/03/paul-philippians-being-real-man-being.html), let me elaborate.

In the 60's across the world, there was a renewal in the mainline churches in many parts of the world; what is commonly called the charismatic renewal. It involved the outpouring of the Spirit on mainline churches who, in many cases, lacked the spiritual vibrancy of the Pentecostal churches. People had fresh experiences of the Spirit. Many spoke in tongues. There were signs and wonders, and refreshed zeal for the gospel and life. In my own denomination, the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand (PCANZ), many churches experienced growth. Indeed, many of the stronger PCANZ churches in NZ even today, can trace their current strength to this wave that swept them.

Sadly, during this time, there were many churches that experienced division. Many saw the tongues and other manifestations as a cause for concern, and opposition was seen in many churches. This led to conflict and splits. One of the churches I had the privilege of ministering in experienced such a split many years earlier. The renewal began in the youth group away on a camp. The young people came home full of the Spirit and zeal, but met opposition to their experience, and the leadership moved to quench it. Sadly, on one fateful Sunday evening, the whole group left, going to a large Pentecostal Church up the road. This affected the church for many years. Such stories were not uncommon.

This wave of the Spirit was linked to a time of renewal of worship, with the church moving into contemporary worship forms. There was great interest in charismata, the gifts of the Spirit. It was an interesting and exciting time.

I got serious about Christianity in the mid -1980's and started attending a large east Auckland Presbyterian Church. Without doubt this church was still in that wave, with evening services full of glorious freedom, prayer, healings, the word preached, and many people doing great work for God. The morning services too, while perhaps less vibrant, were wonderful enthusiastic family gatherings. This church was still riding the wave of the renewal.

Now, some 25 years later, it is fair to say that this wave has now gone. It has washed out. Some churches continue to worship in the same way, yearning for another fresh outpouring. The songs are still sung, but there is not the same sense of refreshment and zing. Indeed some would say that it is over, and it is time for new forms to grow. Some see the emerging and emergent church in this light.

I have pondered this whole phenomenon and consider that it is time for a new move of the Spirit to refresh the church. However, perhaps this time what is needed is not so much an outpouring of the Spirit bringing gifts released (which would still be great), but an outpouring of the Spirit bringing to bear the fruit of the Spirit. The Greek for 'fruit' is karpos; so I call this a karpotic renewal.

Why do I think this?

Well, it seems to me that if Christianity is to be taken seriously again in the west, it needs to be seen and experienced. While miracles are great, what people need to see is the deepest power of the gospel, love. Western people don't take us seriously in many instances, and why would they? They hear on the news of the failures of Christian leaders. We remain divided between denominations. We preach morality to the world, but are no better. We share the gospel, but they are not impressed as they see our hypocrisy. They have heard the words, they need to see the deeds. What is needed is that Holy Spirit falling afresh upon us, and yes, pouring out a new wave of enthusiasm, gifts, miracles and conversion power; but more, the power for us to love and serve. Indeed, everything we do should come from love.

What is needed first is for churches to experience the power of God to remove divisive behaviour, envy, quarrelling, power-domination, guilt and fear; and see it replaced by a love, service, humility, grace, mercy and kindness – the things we read of in Gal 5:22-24 and other places (cf. Phil 2; 1 Cor 13 etc). We need whole denominations to move past debate over issues and doctrine, to working together for the gospel in love and service. We need the breakdown of division between the many churches into which the church has now fragmented. We need to move to a time where the strong churches help the weak, that all are strong. We need to discover our call to serve the world, to wash its feet, to minister at its point of need, to love, to serve, to care, to be God's hands and feet to the world. What is needed in every community is individual Christians, collectives, families, whole churches, and churches together in unity, working together to bring God's transformation to his world. Jesus said, 'by this all people will know that you are my disciples, that you are divided.' No! 'That you love one another.' Paul wrote that 'the greatest of these is love.' It is even greater and 'faith', and for Paul, it is faith that saves. The two Great Commandments are 'love God with everything you have got' (paraphrase), and 'love your neighbour as you long to be loved' (another paraphrase).

Yes, we need a karpotic revival!

Dear God, I pray on behalf of your people in NZ and indeed, the whole world. You visited us in the 20th century with a wonderful wave of your Spirit. It brought the rise of the Pentecostal Church, hallelujah. It brought the renewal of many your beloved churches across the world in the charismatic renewal. Lord, we need you again. Forgive us for our 'fruitlessness.' Forgive us for our division. Forgive us that when your Spirit came afresh, we fought over it, and in some cases divided. Forgive us for moralising. Forgive us for our envy, rivalry, power-domination, for believing that charisma is more important than character. Forgive us our legalism, and our licentiousness. Father, pour out your Spirit with a new wave that generates love and the fruit of the Spirit. Fill us with fruit. May that fruit lead us to go out among the lost and serve them, sharing the gospel out of love, and doing wonderful works of service to see every heart and every part of your world restored. Heal the tree that is your church, remove the blight that is rotting us, and restore us. Come Holy Spirit, Come. We need it, for we are divided and broken. We need it, because the world too much sees our hypocrisy and division, and not our love and service. As you pour out your Spirit, may your people weep as they find a new unity, may you bind us together in wonderful harmony, and take up the gospel afresh. May we share it out of love so that the world will see and know that there is a God who loves them.

Bring a karpotic revival.

Amen.

An Idea: What if The Strong Helped the Weak?

An Article Published in Challenge Weekly in May 2011

I had an idea the other day, and thought I would share it with you. Recently a friend of mine who attends a very large Auckland church shared with me that the church was full of musicians. I asked them whether they were involved in the worship teams of the church. She responded that they weren't; rather, these musicians preferred to get in, enjoy the service, and shoot through, without getting involved. This got me thinking.

In Auckland (and other contexts) there are many churches. Most have a terrible problem with getting musicians together to do a decent job of their worship. Some even use backing tracks as they can't get together a team. Some have musicians that can't handle the changing music forms of today. On the other hand there are big churches with multiple worship teams, musicians and leaders. Here's my idea. How would it look if these big churches made the active choice not to hold onto all these people but to actively send some of them out to these other churches (regardless of denomination) to give leadership to their music? Of course, we could apply this principle to other ministries, like youth and children. We could even do it with money, with wealthier churches giving to the poorer, but that is much more complex.

The natural instinct for big churches would be to do so on the condition that they can control these churches. Let me humbly suggest that the gospel we uphold is not about sending people on condition of control; rather, we send them unconditionally to serve.

How might it look if a senior pastor got up one Sunday and said something like this: 'I know we are overstocked with musicians, children's leaders, and youth leaders (etc).' We have realised we don't want you all here, we are over-resourced. So, I am asking many of you to leave today. Go! Serve in the struggling churches in our area.'

I suppose it comes down to whether the Christian faith is stronger with a few big churches and a whole lot of little ones who are struggling and closing, or with a whole lot of vibrant churches scattered across the city, all reaching their communities with life and vibrancy. Maybe I am wrong, but I kind of think the latter would be better.

Of course, sometimes this idea won't work, because some of the churches have lost the plot completely, and the newbies wouldn't be allowed freedom to express themselves. But let me tell you there are heaps of churches in Auckland and no doubt elsewhere, where leaders would give their right arms to have more to help in worship, youth, children's, and other ministries.

So how about it? Is it time for senior leaders or even the worshipers themselves to make give it a go? Or is this naive idealism? Go deeper.

Additional Note:

Since I published this column, I received from a pastor this (details removed for anonymity):

Hi Mark

I was fascinated, and somewhat amused, to read your recent missive in the Challenge Weekly titled Just an Idea.  

I am the pastor of one of those small but growing churches you describe (detail removed) but who struggle to get decent musicians. So we have no option but to use backing CD's. And while it's quite nice to have Hillsong, Chris Tomlin and the like singing in our service each week, it's not the same as the real thing.

And so it was that I wrote, cap in hand, to the senior pastor of a very large (detail removed) church, asking if we could possibly have one or two musicians who couldn't quite get in to their A, B or C worship teams. I suggested it could be considered a mission opportunity, we only wanted them for twelve months and we were prepared to pay travel expenses.

Not getting a reply to my first letter I requested the courtesy of a reply which I did receive. Sadly, it appears this church apparently has problems getting musicians and therefore couldn't possibly help us out!

My response is best summed up, though not particularly gracious, with the words appearing on an advertising billboard ... – "Yeah, right!" (That billboard is not too far away from one advertising the said church).

Thanks for the article (detail removed).

What a brilliant and sad illustration of the need. Christianity is about the strong helping the weak, so that together, we can work to bring God's message to the world. I am deeply saddened by this. I pray and hope for a change to come over the Church in this nation so that the strong recognise their call to help the weak, so that all can be strong, amen.


 

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Breakfast Beer

A couple of blog posts ago, I mentioned the Double Burger, and how stupid it was to make such a song and dance about it (http://drmarkk.blogspot.com/2011/05/double-burger.html). All that achieves is that people will go out and try it. On Breakfast (TV1) this morning, there was a discussion of the breakfast beer, something also mentioned in the Herald http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10716825. People are up at arms that there is a beer being marketed for breakfast, which will supposedly cause people to drink more, in an already out of control binge drinking culture. Well, without doubt we have a huge problem with alcohol binging. Twenty people die a week, and innumerable people are victims of alcohol induced violence and accidents. My own family was struck by this a few years ago, when a very close relative died of alcohol poisoning. So, yes, at the one level the breakfast beer is bad news.

But again, the naysayers are wrong to make a big issue of it. If television and the Herald had not brought our attention to it, would anyone know that it existed, apart from those who noticed it through advertising. Someone needs to go out to these sorts of food, alcohol and drug police and give them a lesson, don't make an issue of something and it may not have much effect. I have always thought this of sex education at a young age. I remember hearing of students putting condoms on carrots in sex education classes and thinking, I bet half of the kids had never thought of doing that, and didn't know much about sex. But the education opened them up to a whole range of possibilities. I suspect such sex education, especially at an early teen age had the effect of making a number of kids more sexually active. Such things can be counter-productive.

I also came into contact with this in a short stint as a stand-in chaplain at St Kentigerns College a few years ago. At the time there was an epidemic of teenage suicides on both sides of the Tasman. I attended a conference at which the experts in Aussie had seen a reduction in suicides by a change of policy concerning reporting and responding to a suicide. They shifted from publicizing it, putting up memorials, and making an issue of them. They simply did not make a fuss, a quiet funeral, and no real 'celebration' of it. This was leading at the time to big reduction in teen suicide. The point is similar, make a fuss of something, and it will serve to enhance its appeal.

There is a fine art here isn't there. Agencies whose function is to seek to reduce alcohol abuse or obesity need to think very very carefully about what and how they respond to something. In an age where the media are looking for a good story, they can inadvertently be the cause of increasing what they seek to reduce. Clearly in the case of the double burger, and the breakfast beer, if they had said nothing, these products would remain far less known. As it is, I can imagine a whole swag of people going out and getting some of the beer to celebrate breakfast tomorrow.

It was interesting hearing the argument. The argument for the beer was effectively to challenge its difference to a breakfast champagne etc. And yes, what is the difference? As for me, the last thing I want is beer for breakfast – yuck.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Hone, Don, Kiwi-Saver: Politics Is Getting Exciting Again

A few weeks ago the election looked like a done deal. The National juggernaut was rolling on, John Key seemed impregnable, labour was in disarray, they would smash Labour and the left. Then Dad's Army conscripts Dr Don Brash, Hone sets up a new party, and national start to do some things that are likely to shift some voters toward labour. Suddenly Labour is back in the game. Without doubt, Act will do better under Don B. He is a better option than Rodney H, and will get back some of Act's traditional supporters, and will draw some new ones; people who are freaked out at NZ's borrowing, who want to reduce the welfare state, want to reduce any favour to Maori, and so on. Don B might also drive a few toward Labour, as people want to avoid any govt with him in it. It also gives Labour a message. Most of its message looked silly because half of what they want to criticise, they set up! Now, they can just tell the world, a vote for National, is a vote for Don B – and vice versa.

Then there is our friend Hone. He is a warrior, and is out of place in politics. He should be leading a rebellion. He is trying to morph himself into a politician, but has both barrels of his guns pointed at his feet, constantly messing up. He is kind of cool in a weird way. Take the bi-election. What a publicity nightmare. It will get him in and more money for the election, but the disaffected numbers will grow. He has also split the Maori vote, and now Labour can come through the middle. Having said that, the fight for the Maori seats will be intense with the three parties going at it tongs and hammer. Again, Labour may well benefit.

Then there are the proposed changes to Kiwi-saver and Working for Families. This will annoy some on the left, and will swing some to Labour.

Suddenly it seems to me that Labour have a window of opportunity. The window is only letting in a sliver of light however, they are still up against it. I think they have a chance now, but likely they won't get there.

Personally I think National should leave Kiwi-saver alone, it is a great idea.

Anywho, politics is getting exciting. I can't wait for the two big sports events of the year, the Rugby World Cup, and the Election. Who to vote for, that is the question? Well, I am in John Key's electorate, so I either vote for him or throw a vote in the loo. As for the party vote, let's see how it pans out.

One thing I will say to Christian voters is that we have to get past voting on 'charisma' and 'appeal;' if we do that John K will romp in. No, we need to get past that shallow nonsense, and we should vote for the party that we believe reflects best the values of the Kingdom.

  

The Double Burger

If you don't like the KFC double-burger, and you want it banned, and you go to the media to tell the world, you are dumb. In the history of the world, has there ever been a better publicity program for something. Those who hate the burger have inadvertently employed the media to promote it better than one could imagine. Were I KFC, I would be laughing all the way to the bank. Cracks me up to be honest. The Greek word idiot─ôs comes to mind. The thing is, that the burger is not any worse from you than some others on the market. Then there is the news today that it is superior for diabetics because it does not have the sugar. Mind you, that is a double-edged sword, as many diabetics (type 2) are in this position because of obesity – so they should partake in something else. The food-police have been given a good spanking on this one. I am planning to head over the local KFC for lunch today to check it out, want to know what all the fuss is about.