Thursday, December 27, 2007

22 Years Old - Where did the year go?

Today I turned 22 years old. Wow its wierd. I do not know how to start commenting on the feeling of being a year older and apparently a year wiser. I guess all I can say is that I'm thankful. I'm so thankful for being part of a loving caring family. I am thankful for freinds who listen to me, fellowship with me, spend time talking with me. I am thankful that I live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world. I am thankful that God has searched after me and has continued to search after me and that I have the priviledge of journeying and discovering more of what his purpose is for me.
I'm 22 years old, wow, pinch me now.
I'm amazed when I look at how priviledge I really am as a person, what I've achieved and what
I look forward to in the future.
I am priviledged enough to have a degree, a postgraduate degree to be exact. I'm one of a select few who are literate and well educated who live in this world. I feel priviledged because of this and know that I am very lucky to be in such a position. I also know that being put into a priviledge position in comparison with many in the world, I have a responsibility to give of myself unselfishly to those who need it.
I have travelled twice to Russia. This has taught me the importance of missions to christianity. I beleive for this period of time, I'm to live in New Zealand, but the way I live is to engage with those around me, offering myself, sharing my life with all those who come accross my path. I realise that I am still broken, trying to work things out, but I have found a treasure. I'm a leper who has found great wealth and know that I have to share it with those who are lost. I want to further travel, discover the beauty in other cultures, in art, in history, in Langauge, in those people I relate to around the world.

This last year has been difficult. God has teaching me hard lessons. I have learned more about what it means be a human. What it means to be broken, what needs to be healed in my life, what I need to let go of, what areas God needs to dismantle and repair. I'm looking forward to a year of growth, a year of further of growth. There are things that I want to intentionally create in the coming year, there are skills that I want to develop in the coming year. I want to explore who God has created me to be, why God has placed me where I am, who God wants those around me to become. I am looking forward to a year of growth, a year of challenge and a year of adventure. Bring it on!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Christmas (War Is Over)

Another Christmas Favourite for me. We pray and hope for peace throughout the world.

Do they know it's christmas

This is one of my favourite Christmas pop songs, even if its 20 years old. Hope you have a merry christmas and a great time celebrating with family. Remember those who are less fortunate than you in this time and care for those who are lonely and ask what you can do for them at christmas time. Have a great day.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Random Switchfoot Quote

I found this quote in a interview with Jon Foreman I read today in the Parachute Programme for 2008. I found it extremely intriguing and thought provoking.

""Why are you alive? What happens when I die? What is this aching in my chest?" I feel like we drown these frightening questions with an assortment of modern noise. I cannot answer these questions for anyone else but the biggest things in my life often come like a whisper - the still small voice in the darkness of quiet moments"

Santa, do you know I'm in Darfur?

(a poem by Amin George Forji)

Where should I go from here?
Even in this desert wilderness,
In the middle of nowhere.
Where no green grass ever grows,
Or water flows,
even during the best season.
I am still pursued
By determined evil.
Men bent on drinking the blood of my race,
To the very last.

Ever since these forces invaded our lives
I have been on the run, constantly.
Seeing each new day by a narrow escape
From the horror of a death
That has consumed millions
Of my Darfur brothers and sisters.

With every day that passes,
The clouds darken here.

Three rainy seasons back
We enjoyed our harvests
The cattle grazed in the fields
And the children danced the bambuuru dance.

Then an epidemic of the highest magnitude
Rained down on the land.
Not of nature, but of man.
These were not alien invaders,
But rather those who should protect us.

And their claws are so so sharp
That even wild vipers have fled from the land.
A heart attack killed Daddy
When he heard that Mommy and my sister
Were raped by two dozen Janjaweed.

Brother died trying to save them
And was butchered like bush meat
For daring to challenge their fun.

Grandma and Grandpa were burned alive.
Bombs fired Uncle’s hutIn the middle of the night.
Today I stand alone in the middle of nowhere.
No longer able to shed tears because
There is no more water in my dry eyes.
I am just waiting for my own turn
To drown under the sword of Janjaweed.’

I cannot even remember the seasons.
The hawks and eagles
That flew past me in the mountains yesterday
Were so surprised and full of pity
That they delayed their journey.
They put their heads together on my behalf,
Wanting to lend me their wings
So I could fly away with them
To a safer world,
But it was not possible.
However, they comforted me by telling me that it’s Christmas.
Without them I was never going to know.
That Christmas still exists.

Santa, I remember you are the Father of Christmas.
I remember Christmas is your season
And you are forever who you are.
And you are going to every child
To give them a deserving smile.
Ever since the epidemic rained down on us in Darfur
I have not heard anything from you.
Have you erased Darfur from your world map?
Do you know I am in Darfur?
Tell me at least that you got my question.

If you want to know anything more about the tradgedy that is the Darfur Genocide check out Save Darfur. This is a humanitarian disaster and must be remembered at this christmas period, hundreds of thousands have been raped and murdered by the Janjaweed Militia who have been employed by the Sudanese government to do thier dirty work. We in the west cannot sit back and watch this disaster occur.

HT: Natalie

Monday, December 17, 2007

Prayer - Light

Dear Lord, I thank you that you came into the darkness of the world, the hopelessness that faced humanity as a little baby and showed us hope and truth. I thank you that you keep working in my life, all through my brokenness, all through the times where things seem hopeless and shine your light. Lord I pray that I would bring comfort to those who need comfort, and I would generously give to those in need. I pray that I would light the way to you, the ultimate source of light.

Lord I pray for those suffering this Christmas, from sickness, from the pain of lose, from financial hardship, that you would be there, that you would provide hope and grace to those who need you during this period. So the light of the hope of Christ would shine in and give strength in the darkness.

For thine be the glory, forever and ever, amen.

Jesus - The Light of Christmas to the entire world

“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.””
Mathew 2:1

Mathew 5:14-15
You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Niether do people light a lamp under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine about before men, that they may see you good deeds and praise your father in heaven.”

John 1:1-4
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light of the shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it”

“Light of the World You stepped down into the darkness”
- Tim Hughes. Here I am to Worship

Since yesterday the image of light in the story of Christmas has been challenging me – it felt like one of those weird epiphanies – all the things of the Christian message, and the Christmas story finding new meaning in that moment as I meditated on the story of Christmas. Light is a powerful and important image for the Christian faith.

The importance of light to life has been shown to me in the past when I have gone to tramps or camped out in the dark. I remember one of those tramps that I went on we were travelling back to the campsite, we were going down a steep dangerous area at about nine o’clock at night and it was quite dark. I had the only light of the group and a number within the group were relying on the guidance of the light I had to guide them to safety and to the camp site we were going to. Or light to get from your cabin to the bathroom in the middle of night. The use of light is essential for direction and guidance, otherwise we are blind, we stumble and in the dangerous places – such as the New Zealand bush, we put ourselves at danger of falling off a cliff because of our actions.

The light of the nativity story was similar to this, these men from the Orient (the Persian empire?) travelled to after the light to find the Messiah of the whole world, who would save Israel and the whole world from their plight by his coming into the world. They relied on the light to guide them and bring them to the place that Jesus would be born, the small Nazarene town of Bethlehem, so they could worship Jesus and proclaim him as Messiah.

Last night, Phil Crawford, a friend and leader within Mosaic pressed us to be “pregnant” with the message of Christ. To know in some way we carry the image of Christ – no we carry to spirit of Christ with us wherever we go. For me this essentially means to spend more time meditating on the message of the gospels, to continue wrestling with the stunning and powerful truths of the gospel, the meaning of these stories. That God would come into our existence as a vulnerable baby, into the hands of two poor scared teenagers, and come to redeem his people from sin, from the religious systems that we have created that impede a true relationship with the father, from our brokenness and pain. To show us a new way to be human and lead us back to the original plan for humanity – to glorify Gods through all our lives – to use our all – our intellect, creativity, our friendships, etc to the glory of our Lord and saviour, to enjoy him passionately.

As Christians, we are lights, we are to guide people to the LIGHT – Jesus. To me the image of a guide is summed up in the story of The Lord of the Rings in which Gandalf guides the hobbits through the dark of Mordor, and through the scary places, through danger and despair. He guides them and shows them their purpose, to defeat the evil of suron and bring hope back to middle earth.

In our lives we can have the assurance that during our hardship, that the light of Christ – the hope of the light of Christ will be with us, giving us strength and guidance and bringing us through the hard times. I know how it is to be through the hard stuff, I have felt pain personally with massive grief over losing a close family member. The pain and despair was and is deep. I have been unhappy at God, even angry at him for this. Luckily due to the grace of God I had family who could guide me to the loving arms of my saviour of show me the light and hope of Jesus during these hard moments. I love the comfort and the love that is given by my Lord and saviour. This love, comfort, hope and friendship I want to be willing to show to those who are lost and do not know who he is. Personally, I really do not want to hide the light beneath a bushel. I want to share it with all I come across.

This means I have to be a comfort to those who need comfort during this Christmas time, those who are going through hard times need to be cared for in ways that are responsive to their needs. It means I need to give to the needy. It means I need to be a partner of the journey of the many who are seeking after finding God. It means I need to coffee with those who are lost sharing myself with them in the place that they are, being a friend with no ulterior motive other that to just love them and be Christ in the situation that I am, shining the fragrance of Jesus, sharing Jesus personally through how I live, but also by the words I proclaim into those around me.

I want to be a light during this Christmas time, a light of hope to those around me, a light showing people to Jesus, a light of love to those who need love, a light of comfort to those morning, a light that shines through the darkness that we all face showing the way to the saving arms of a loving and all powerful saviour and God.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Middle Class Christians - The dilemma of the church!

Another brilliant post by ASBO Jesus. This picture truly challenges me to go outside the box. The monoculture that we have within church disturbs my soul - as we seem to "advertise" to this monoculture. The thing we also need to realise is that this group is a dying breed. The church needs to reembrace its call to the poor and the marginalised, its call to be a body that reaches out to the whole world. As my friend lisa said, look at what the "mainstream" christian sites in america aim at propragate - they are white middle class family churches. Where are many* of the lost - they are from broken families, poor - from a multihued background (African Americans, Hispanics, Middle eastern, Cambodia, Vietnam etc, etc.) If christianity is to be the light to the whole world it has to get past the programme mentality and get passed aiming at the scrubbed up and clean. It has to go back to the heart of the gospel, where we aim to reach the downcast, the poor, the unworthy - the image of you and me when we take off our visades and realise how in need we are of God, how broken we truly are.

I have told you of my dreams of heaven, its rich in colour and diversity, rich in the voices and langauges of the world - all the peoples - ethiopians, sudanese, Jews, Palestinians, Orthodox, catholic, vineyard, baptist, southern baptist, breathren. Rich, poor, man and women all praising God, all thanking God for the grace that God has shown them. All partnering with God for his glory.
*In the original post I implied that the middle class were saved or didn't need God - I did not mean to say this. As I say in the rest of the post - Gods Grace is for all, and I am arguing that we need to look outside the group that we are used to. Outside the comfortable, to see where God is moving, challenge preconceptions, breakdown walls, and fully embrace the story of the gospels.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Books of Influence

I have read alot of books over the last couple of years. These are numerous and have had major influence on my spiritual journey. They have challenged my faith and while I do not agree with everything in them, they are influential and challenging and highly recommended reading.

Brian McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy: This was one of the first books I read when I was introduced to the "Emerging Conversation", this book is an interesting take on the Christian journey. It is a worthwhile read. A disclaimer though is that it should be read with discernment. I do not agree with all his points and I'm worried that Brian may have emerged too closely with culture and "gone native" (I have to talk about this term some time!) in some areas. But it is a good book to read if you want to look at what faith may look like in postmodern terms.

Michael Frost, Exiles: This is one of my favourite books on my shelf when it comes to talking about the posture and shape of a missional christian engaging with a postmodern world. It is essential reading for anyone wanting to engage with a post-christian west. It talks about getting back to the Jesus of the bible, rediscovering true christology, then reforging a missional imputus of both christians and the church. It essentially flows out from the idea that first we have to know Jesus, then we are sent, then we create and form communities of faith - these communities are there to strengthen beleivers (an essential of good community) but also sent to change the world (the other important issue.) Frost says that we should be missional not attractional. Attractional was related to the late modern seeker sensitive services and while they are good tools, they have thier limitations (as do post-modern modes of community I will add!)

Alan Hirsh, The Forgotten Ways: Hirsh is a friend and co-conspirator with Michael frost - he is part of Forge. The book of Hirsh comes from his experience creating missional faith communities and church plants. He reminesces and offers both hard lessons and theory on what that missional church should look like. His work is built on looking both historically at the church (what led to massive church growth in the early church and the in Chinese churches in the last fifty years), he creates a model that he calls "the apostolic genius." In his book he argues that if the church gets back to the "apostolic genius" we will see more people come to know the living God. His work is also rooted in chaos theory and organic models of organisation (something that as a person who has looked at more modern mechanistic heirarchical models of organization is very compelling!)

I enjoyed this book, something though that I find difficult with both Hirsh and Frost is that they seem to write to the educated, middle class. They seem to assume that all thier readers would have a strong understanding of church and church models of leadership. I wonder, is there a way to write thier views in a way that is simpler, so that the ideas can be got from the bottom up, rather than a way that seems to be top down approach (change the opinions of the educated leader, then that leader will change the opinions of the church laity)

John B. Hayes: Submerge: Maybe this was a stage of my thinking where I thought I might be sent in this area and into a point where I would minister to the poor, but this book has been of major influence on me as well. This book is written by a guy similar to Shane Claiborne (though not as young and hippy looking!) John B. Hayes has been sent to live with the poorest of th poor in america and in countries like cambodia, he is the director of Innerchange a mission order which is tasked to serving the poor. You will never look at the world the same way again after reading this book. He challenges us to take the red pill, to realise that the world is not as rosy as we think and to act on the facts he passes out.. It is challenging, hard-hitting reading. It mixes John B. Hayes story of ministry with a call to be actively being christ to the poor, we need to sent people out to the poor, incarnating into that environment, enjoying celebrating, weeping, laughing, being apart of the life and sharing christ with those who are lost. Read this book, it will challenge your worldview of what it means to be a follower of Christ in the world today.

Dan Kimball, The Emerging Church: To tell you the truth I'm only half way through this book. Its worth the read, especially if you are looking at how and why church should engage with post-christian culture. Kimball writes strongly from personal experience. I have found Kimballs work the most graceful work that I've read so far. One of the strengths is that he has allowed the comments of other church leaders, such as Brian McLaren but also Rick Warren from Saddleback. The first half of the book had loads of comments that I wanted to underline and take and put on this blog, plus I just read a really good paragrath on Paul and his engagement with the greeks at Mars Hill, which goes further than my posts on this subject.
One thing about Kimball is he is strongly evangelical in his roots - he engages scripture, puts Christ at centre and explains how we fall short and why we need Jesus! I like Kimball alot for this.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

What Jesus would do - part 2

The more and more I look at the image I put on the last post the more I'm challenged by it to think deeply about what it is saying, to look at it with open eyes. The image is called "servant to all." And the truth is that Jesus is a servant to all. Jesus was teaching through the washing of his disciples feet that we are to be servants to all, great and small (sorry for the rhyming).

One qoute under the image was "Jesus-Still to Radical". I think this is accurate, I still struggle with the radical message of the gospel day to day and what it means to live as a Christian - a servant to the lost, the lonely, to the whole world.

Lets look at another image quickly. Jesus gets a message from a roman centurion that one of his servants is sick. Now Jesus goes and serves this man. Who is this man - well as I said hes a roman centurion a leader in the pagan empire who is oppressing Jesus's people. But Jesus sees that he has faith. Jesus serves this man by going and healing his servant. Again this would have challenged the preconceptions of the time!

What do you think?