Pastor’s Pen 3rd May 2020

Shalom. Remember that God is aware of everything we face, and faces it with us.
In this lockdown situation it has been interesting in how it has affected people.
Most seem ok with the process but are pleased it’s going down and looking forward to seeing the guidelines ease more as time continues and COVID-19 infections stay minimal or none for the foreseeable future.
I have a sister in England who has been in lockdown since we were and will be till June! She’s a transplant patient with compromised immunity. Every time I remind myself that really, it’s pretty good here.
It’s easy to minimize the potential damage from this pandemic because, essentially that is what we have managed to do as a nation. I am concerned about the impact it will have on places in Africa and South East Asia and India where their health systems will collapse a lot faster than European countries did and it was bad enough there.
The reality is that it seems that NZ has dodged the bullet but much of the world is still experiencing the onslaught of this virus. We must ensure we do not dismiss the severity this time poses for our world.
In NZ there are families who are really struggling with the ramifications of the lockdown and the economic effect. I think of those addicted to various drugs who are struggling to get any supply. On one hand I think it’s good, but the consequences on those around them could be quite traumatic.
So I’m reminded that there is much we can pray for… even if our own little bubbles are bubbly, not everyone else is.
As usual there is much to be thankful for and much to intercede with.
Enjoy your time ahead with prayer, wisdom and insight.

Bless ya
Pastor Mike

Pastor’s Pen 26th April 2020

Shalom. Let our pressures and stresses rest in the hands of a loving God as we relax in his presence.

Well, we are heading into level 3 next week! Yay, sort of… this will not practicably change anything from the way we’ve been ‘gathering’ and keeping in contact. So, we still won’t get to see each other in the flesh on a Sunday, and you get the chance to see if my video skills are getting better (I’m not going to aim for a TV show at all). As we continue to head down the levels we will be able to look at ways we can begin to expand our bubbles and hopefully encourage mini gatherings in peoples homes (sounds very Acts of the Apostles based), but not yet.

So for now we keep washing our hands and maintaining social distance while staying in our bubbles being bubbly (unless I forget to wipe down the bench after myself, not sure what your challenges are 🙂 ).

Rebecca and I have been walking down to Wharekaho / Simpsons beach with Lochy several times a week, and have enjoyed the walk. It’s still quicker getting there than back, but the steps are less of a challenge than they were a few weeks ago!

I want to encourage you to use this time to continue to grow in your relationship with God. Keep reading his word and asking Wairua Tapu to help you understand it. There are heaps of resources on line to gain a deeper insight, but I have found the You bible application and Bible gateway good places to start. Be careful about accepting anything and everything you read on line. If you want to delve deeper in his word using these platforms, then some good research helps. Not every website tells the same story and some tell one I may not agree with. Please feel free to contact me, or your home group leader if you’d like help and direction.

An amazing aspect of our faith is it’s uniqueness at being able to free individuals from bondage, transform their personal world and also be able to radically reform whole societies.

We see that Jesus focused firstly on individuals, and any historian or anthropologist will tell you that to transform a society you need to start a movement that changes how people think, and often this is done through fear and intimidation. Recent examples are communism, fascism, socialism and capitalism.

Yes, capitalism is one that still operates by fear. We are afraid we won’t have enough money, or be able to achieve or have what we want. These fears are becoming apparent now as a result of the economic consequences of our lockdown. New Zealand isn’t a pure capitalist society, and in the midst of our current situation we should all be thankful for that. But we are incredibly secular and have an underlying belief in our individual self sufficiency and rationality. We don’t need God because we can sort it out for ourselves.

Christianity often flourishes in the adversity of the first three, but can be watered down in the latter. Christianity is not a faith that is based on fear (awe and respect towards God yes but not fear). As followers of Christ Jesus we have a responsibility to help transform the world we live in, so that it better reflects kingdom values. Most of Western civilization has these values as its basis and rewards people for hard work and encourages people to give their best in the ‘pursuit of happiness’ and to be the best they can be. The challenge is we have allowed greed and selfishness to become more prominent and the rich get richer and forget the poor.

This is not God’s heartbeat and we need to get our balance better. This is best done as each of us grapple with God’s call, seek his heart, read His word and work together to be a community that seeks to take the change we have discovered to a wider world. I think in our current environment, the need for us to address wealth inequality is very evident and the need to consider our economic models are very apt. But that’s a whole new discussion.

I hope you have a great week and find God pulling you into a deeper embrace.

Blessings
Pastor Mike

Pastor’s Pen 19th April 2020

Shalom. May you continue to know God’s presence and peace during this time.
As I sit here looking at the rain I’m reminded that things continue on irregardless of how we as a humanity are coping with the lock down. The sun rises and sets, the earth hurtles through it’s path around the Sun, allowing the seasons to change and weather patterns to emerge.
Animals, birds, whales and fish continue the migrations they have been doing since time began. Trees, plants and algae are continuing their life cycles and nature is largely unaffected by this little virus…
One good aspect of this COVID-19 pandemic has been the massive overnight reduction in pollution that we contribute. Air travel has been vastly reduced, cruise ships will be viewed much more circumspectly, at least by me. Maybe we’ll see kiwis travelling more of NZ instead of embarking on an overseas trip?
I don’t know what things will look like in a year, but I do hope they will look different in a better way…
I hope we appreciate each other more. My introverted side has enjoyed being in its bubble, but I do miss being able to sit with people over a coffee, to walk beaches with whoever I meet oblivious to the need to maintain social distance and to simply go for a drive because I can.
I hope I don’t get as busy. Our society values busyness and correlates it with success. The more I can cram into a day, the more productive I am… Really? Is that necessarily true? I think we should use our time well, but often we can find ourselves using people and treasuring things.I hope and will try to endeavour to have a deeper appreciation of who is around me and a better understanding of how I may share the blessings I know through my walk with Jesus.
I hope we have more small groups operating. As we head down the levels we will be able to venture into smaller gatherings, hopefully we will have more information as things continue to evolve. As this happens I will be encouraging more spaces and places for gathering where we can worship together, listen to each other, receive input and encouragement through Gods word and prayer.
I really admire what Paul Henwood is doing with his group at Matarangi… well done my friend!
Either way, it’s likely going to be a while before we meet together on a Sunday back at 112 Cook Drive. But we will.

Blessings
Pastor Mike

Pastor’s Pen 12th April 2020

Shalom. Remember that God is still in sovereign and nothing catches him by surprise.
Well, two weeks in and it might be that we are seeing success in dampening the effects of COVID-19 transmission in our country. I pray we are. This doesn’t mean that we can relax our social distance, living in our bubble and always remembering to wash our hands.
This week is Passion week… Jesus knew how the week would end… Matt 26:2…
“As you know, Passover begins in two days, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”

Passover is on Wednesday night. Today is Tuesday… I wonder what sort of a day it was like for Jesus? Was he was stressed? I would have been.
Was he grumpy? Maybe?
Was he was content… I think he was, but I’m not sure if he was happy.
Scripture doesn’t really tell us, but we do know that by and large the disciples hadn’t really got it.
I am certain that come sunset Friday they had. By then, Jesus was dead and buried, in a borrowed tomb, behind a boulder guarded by Roman soldiers who, quite probably, were involved in his arrest on Wednesday.
Looking back, the disciples did work it out, preached about it and lived a different life, hindsight is wonderful like that.
But that week… I don’t think they really knew how different things would be by Friday. Let alone the next week.

I think it was a bit like that for the world with this COVID-19 pandemic. Here, we had no idea how different things could look in a week. Some could see the writing on the wall. Epidemiologists telling us doom and gloom… the extremes were dismissed by many, and by and large most people didn’t really grasp what was about to hit us… and still is. In NZ / Aotearoa we are still very blessed with the way we’ve been impacted by the virus. Sure, the economic ramifications are being felt and will be for awhile, the social isolation is obvious, but by and large we seem to have escaped the exponential growth experience of China, Italy, Spain, Iran and the USA and the accompanying death toll.
We don’t really know how this will end, how long it will go for and what the new normal will be like. But we can take comfort from the truth that Jesus is still alive and with us.
I feel for the disciples, maybe they thought everything was under control, life was good, Jesus was becoming more popular and it seemed more were beginning to realize what they had… he was the Messiah. I mean Sunday was amazing… riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, celebrated by thousands calling out Hosanna to the Son of David…
But then 3 days later…
Arrest, beating, crucifixion and entombed…
It was over… he was dead.

But then 3 days later…

This week is opportunity for each of us to consider what needs to change in our life, in our bubble? What do we need to let go of? What needs to die?
Whatever it is… leave it at the cross on Friday… it’s a good day to.
Because 3 days later… but that’s another story.
We need to remember Friday to appreciate Sunday.
I hope you enjoy his week.

Blessings
Pastor Mike

Communion Sunday…

This Sunday is the first Sunday of the month and the day we normally take communion together.
Obviously we can’t do that at the moment, at least together, but we can in our own bubbles.
If you’d like to share communion (eucharist or the Lord’s supper) with us, I encourage you to take a moment and prepare something to drink (if possible grape juice or wine or similar but times are flexible) and a little bread at about 11am on Sunday 5th April.
If you choose to do this, then pause and consider what the Lord’s supper means to you.
Where are you and Jesus at?
How thankful are you for what he’s done?
What is one thing you think he’d want you to do today?
Will you do it?

Then consider the following scripture…
For I pass on to you what I received from the Lord himself. On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this in remembrance of me as often as you drink it.” For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again. So anyone who eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily is guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking the cup. For if you eat the bread or drink the cup without honoring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God’s judgment upon yourself.
1 Corinthians 11: 23- 29.

Unworthily is in reference to the church of Corinth at the time being made up of all sorts… wealthy, poor, slave or free… and some could gather earlier (generally the wealthier ones) to share this supper and then proceeded to eat and drink and leave nothing for those who couldn’t make it because of circumstances (generally the poor or slaves).
Therefore dishonoring their fellow believers.
So make sure there’s enough for everyone in your bubble…. don’t be stingy… let every have a whole piece of bread to themselves, even a whole cup of drink (unless you are using wine, then go easy… it’s still the morning).

And remember, don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.
Philippians 4:6 NLT

Blessings
Pastor Mike

Pastor’s Pen 5th April 2020

Shalom. Remember that God is always sovereign.
Well, one week in to level 4 lockdown and everyone is coping?
It’s a strange time and I feel most have transitioned to the new normal so far. The impact on our town hasn’t been fully felt yet and when we are able to gather again, the need for us to support our community will be apparent.
There has been much written and said about the Coronavirus and its effects on the world. If nothing else it reminds me how fragile our illusion of control can be. Whilst I appreciate the steps we are taking as a nation to mitigate the impact of this virus on our country, at the end of the day we’re not immune from it and at some level we need to understand that. Hopefully there will be an effective vaccine that will give us immunity, much as the flu shot currently being administered… because there’s only two ways in the natural world we can receive immunity from a virus, by catching it or taking a vaccine. Of course Jesus can grant us this immunity too… but so far he hasn’t told me he will.
To avoid the widespread problem this pandemic would bring our government has put us into level 4 lockdown.

As followers of Jesus, we should honour the requirements asked of us. A lot of it is common sense really. For some of our businesses, like kiwifruit, there have been added layers of compliance brought in.
All of this can lead to frustration and even resentment. But remember that the fruit of the Spirit is… love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self control.
It’s in times like this when we are pressured and stressed that whatever is inside us comes out.
Let our light shine before people, that they may see our good deeds and praise our Father in heaven.

Have an even better week ahead.

Bless ya
Pastor Mike