Pastor’s Pen 31st March 2019

Shalom. May God help you grow in your knowledge and love of Jesus.
In light of the recent Christchurch tragedy I’ve been pleased to see how we have responded as a nation and as a body of churches. I appreciated our governments response and have been impresses with our PM Jacinda Ardern, excepting the Muslim call to prayer broadcast over our airwaves.
I have reservations regarding the wisdom of this, let alone the spiritual implications for a secular parliament so quick to embrace one faith as it seeks to eject another.
This has caused me to hope that we are able to better express our faith with regards to others. This isn’t saying that we consider them all equal, but that we are able to understand and respect the differences and agree that nobody is better than anyone else simply because of their belief.
I was thinking that often a blindspot with churches is we seem to disagree so much and so often we focus on the areas we differ on, and not celebrate the things we have in common. In this regard Christchurch has prompted a more or less unified response and I think this is fantastic.
It is my belief that our Christian life is primarily one of relationship and journey as we follow Christ Jesus and engage in the things He has for us. This needs to happen on individual, congregational and even national levels.
It is important to have good companions on the journey; they ‘spur us on to love and good deeds’. This is true for us as individuals when we mix in small groups and as congregations, but others should never have to wear the burden of carrying us to and across the finish line. Jesus doesn’t expect any of us to be completely responsible for each others faith and hold us accountable for their growth or lack of. It is true we have a part to play, some of us a greater part and I include myself in that. The sad thing is often we narrow our perception of how to live this life of following Christ and brand all who differ as wrong or in error. It is undoubtedly true that some are, and God will sort them out, but often they aren’t wrong, just different.
The challenge is how we handle diversity when it sits next to us in the form of a person; or a church down the road; after all Jesus said:
“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples–when they see the love you have for each other.” (Joh 13:34-35)
It’s easy to love someone who is just like us, but harder if they aren’t. This love needs to extend beyond us as individuals and as a church see us reaching out and loving the wider church that makes up the church of Whitianga.
As the church we need to be engaging with our community where they are and expect less for them to come to us than we go to them.

Bless ya
Pastor Mike

Pastor’s Pen 24th March 2019

Shalom. May God reveal his love for you through the reality of Jesus revealed through his Holy Spirit. 
Last week saw the tragic events unfold in Christchurch as 50 people lost their lives and 42 others were shot in two mosques as one gunman acted out his white supremacist views.
Around our world there have been other accounts of terrorism. Whilst the reason may differ the fount of it is similar.
Radicalism of any viewpoint can lead to extremism that most who hold to that point of view or a belief system would reject. This is true for the majority of Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists etc and even White Supremacists.
When we forget that we aren’t really different from anyone else but instead think we’re better, or at least more informed and hence wiser then we can begin to separate people into groups and can even make the mistake of beginning to dehumanize them. This happens more than we’d like to admit. Obviously WW2 was an example but most nations, including our own have tales of this sort of behaviour in our history.
I’ve been caught at times this week with tears reading about the events and how those who survived did yet also those who didn’t. A young lad survived but lost his 3 year old brother! How do you live with that?
What has encouraged me is the overwhelming response from our nation to love those who were victims. It is my hope that we continue to grow and ask ourselves how can radicalism fester so well in our society?
As a follower of Jesus I must involve myself more in reminding people to love God and their neighbour not simply because Christians should but humans should.
So as the events of the last few weeks continue to reverberate around the country and the world let us not forget the lessons we have learned from this time.

The only thing we should be extreme about is our love for Jesus and others.

Bless ya
Pastor Mike

Pastor’s Pen 17th March 2019

Shalom. Let God fill the wings of the faithful to fly further in the will of his wind.

As you may know Rebecca and I are slowly working away on our little house. I remember now how long things take. Rebecca does most of the painting while I do the plastering,  filling and most of the sanding … it seems to take forever to finish. You spend all this time preparing – washing walls, filling holes, sanding; preparing paint, brushes, painting sheets and moving furniture out the way. Then you actually paint; but you need to go around all the edges, corners and areas where the roller wouldn’t work. It seems like there’s all this work that’s gone on with not much to show, then the roller comes out and all of a sudden you’ve got a glimpse of the finished product.

Our life is like that; the big areas often don’t take that much to do, but it’s the little things that give it it’s lines, that pronounce you’ve done a good (or at least ok) job. It’s often the little things that take the time, the little moments that help define the big ones. Those regular times of prayer, bible reading, thinking and meditating on God that may not seem huge, but when you come to the big decisions, help guide and direct you because you’ve learnt to listen to Holy Spirit’s voice, to discern the whisper of God in the midst of the noise of life.
I’ve found this past week a reminder of the need to draw aside regularly and spend time with God because much of the noise of my life is full of God chatter in the best way possible, but still I need to emulate the lesson of my master and ‘go up the mountain’ to spend time alone.
Hebrews 12:2 Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it; because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honour, right alongside God. (The Message)

We must keep the main thing, the main thing and that is to achieve the purpose Jesus has for us and be the person he created us to be. We can know we’re on the right track when we…
…Act justly; love mercy and walk humbly with our God. (Micah 6:8)

May this week be one where you discover a greater ease in your journey with Christ.

Bless ya
Pastor Mike

Pastor’s Pen 10th March 2019

Shalom. Let God instil in you a quiet confidence that he will always be near.

The Gospel of John finishes with Jesus asking Peter if he loves him. Three times Peter affirms his answer. Seems a bit unfair at first… but three times Peter denied him the night he was betrayed by Judas… sometimes when we answer something multiple times it reinforces the truth in us.
Try it yourself… ask yourself do you love Jesus?
Then consider the tag along Jesus gave,
Feed my lambs, take care of my sheep, feed my sheep. 
Lambs are baby sheep… Jesus is encouraging Peter, and us, to feed those young in the faith good food… to help them grow healthy and strong, then look after everyone and lastly feed every one… regardless of age or maturity,  including ourselves. 
This is a reminder to us that mentoring others is an essential part of being a follower of Jesus. And being mentored is the same requirement. 
Bit like raising kids, I treat my lads differently now they’re all young men than I did when they were preschoolers or children or teenagers. 
So remember that God loves you just the way you are. But He refuses to leave you that way, He wants you to be just like Jesus… He asks us to do the same to others.

Bless ya
Pastor Mike

Pastor’s Pen 3rd March 2019

Shalom. Allow God to capture you in his presence and may learn to linger there.

The wisest thing we can do after accepting Jesus’ invitation is to guard our heart. For this is the seat of who we are and determines what we treasure and directs our actions. It contains the values we live by and live out.
Jesus said it isn’t what goes into a person that makes them unclean but what comes out of them… their heart.
So, our hearts matter to God… therefore they should matter to us. Further, we should be concerned for each others hearts and always be willing and trying to spur each other to love and good deeds.
You see we need each other to best guard our heart…
Community is important. It gives us somewhere to belong, helps to place part of our identity and gives us people we can relate to. A community of faith is very important. It saddens me that so many who say they follow Christ never settle down in a church but instead casually flit in and out, never settling down in the search for that elusive perfect match. I will be the first to admit that sometimes church can be a hard place to be… the politics, the grumblings, the crazy Pastor, the noisy parents… but it can be the most wonderful place to be as well… the intense discussion, the expression of diverse opinion, the sense of care and concern, the laughter, the support. This is simply because we’re family and you can’t really choose family – God does that for us – but we can choose to let family be friends; and family / friends stick together. One of the many things I enjoy about our church is the real way people relate; it impresses me how often I do see ‘intergenerational’ discussion.
This is also called mentoring, and it’s something that we need to be involved in as both recipients and givers. It’s something I’ve benefitted from hugely and is something I hope to be able to offer more and more as I continue to get old(er).

May the fruit of your character reap itself in the harvest of relationships you’ve sown.

Bless ya
Pastor Mike