Pastor’s Pen 14th June 2020

Shalom. Remember to obey all that He has commanded you to do.

This can seem like a big burden when we consider the list of decrees and regulations and commandments outlines through Scripture.

It was the basis for questions Jesus was asked a number of times and the answer given has shaped and formed much of our society over the ensuing 2000 odd years, but resonated with every culture and peoples around the world. Prior to the embracing of Christianity, much of ancient culture was underlined with an understanding of capricious gods and fickle deities who demanded worship and would retaliate at the merest slight they felt was directed at them. Israel was quite unique, though not exclusive, in the worship of a largely caring and loving God who would look after and defend his people. Jesus took this further and John summed it up in John 3: 16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave[g] his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

This is still a radical concept! Our challenge is that having lived with a foundation of our society being based on these Christian values and morals we have taken for granted the radical nature and extreme departure from much of the self centredness that drove humanity for millenia. We have at times failed to recognise that if we stray too far from the basis and calling of this we could see our society return to more self-centred and polarising behaviours as we swing between extremes. Our national approach during Covid and beyond of being kind to each other is a great example of a Christ centred value and I’m encouraged how widely we have and still embraced this.

At it’s centre the gospel commandment is summed up in the greatest commandment, which is actually two conjoined, inseperable dynamics that when fused together create a kind, generous, safe and creative society.

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, the second is like it, love your neighbour as yourself…’

If we can remember to obey this before we obey other things we will grasp the essence of Christ like behaviour.

I hope you enjoy the outworking of this over the coming days, weeks and months.

Bless ya
Pastor Mike

Pastor’s Pen 7th June 2020

Shalom. Let God show you where you need to change and listen

As I look back over my time as a follower of Jesus and including my time in pastoral service (I’ll be celebrating 25 years in pastoral ministry on June 15th) I can’t help but think that maybe I’ve spent too much time running programs and building church structure (which seems oxymoronic from me if you know me at all) than making disciples.
Now this doesn’t mean I’ve not seen people grow as disciples or embrace the call that God has on their life. Every year I’ve been in ministry I’ve seen baptisms (not as many as I’d hope for) I’ve seen people embrace faith and step out into new challenges, but it seems to me that much of my role has revolved around ecclesial management, and rightly so to a degree. As a pastor it is my responsibility to ensure that a church has good pastoral leadership. But even deeper than that my role has responsibility , to quote Ephesians 4 12 …” to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.”
As a father helps raise his children and in the process of raising them, grows himself, so too is a Pastors role.
Each of us is at differing points in our relationship with Jesus, and often that’s the first thing to ensure, that you are in a relationship. Nobody needs to be directed in their faith journey exactly the same as everybody else. Whilst we will have similarities and broadly comparable issues, each of us is unique and must learn how to discern and know the will and purpose of God for each of us and be humble enough to be in a family of believers and have a role to play in that family (it’s called church people).
This is what unity looks like – that in the midst of diversity, differing opinions and expectations, styles and desires, we still choose to put Jesus and others first; that we continually remind ourselves it’s not about me, it’s about Jesus in me and others. Also, that we continually ask how can we build on the foundation we’ve inherited in such a way that it leaves a good foundation for the ones who follow.
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3… “7 It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. 9 For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building.
10 Because of God’s grace to me, I have laid the foundation like an expert builder. Now others are building on it. But whoever is building on this foundation must be very careful. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ.”
A field is simply a provision, a place, a blank canvas upon which God may create something, build something, build someone, someone like us.
We can only be successful, only have expertise, when we do it with an undergirding of grace, understanding it’s not our task alone, but others must be involved.
As a father I’m acutely aware that children need role models. Hopefully for my lads, I’m one of them, but I’d be stupid to think I’m the only one. They need multiple role models and part of my role is to encourage them to find good ones, because find them they will and many that the world offer are pretty hopeless, but the pressure is strong to embrace them. A parent needs men and women who will help them to raise their kids, they need men and women who will help them to show them good Christian relationships that grapple with the authentic and real issues of life.
They, like I, need the church. I also, with the deepest of humility realise that as much as I need the church, for better or worse, the church needs me too and further the church needs you, not simply for what you can do, but for who you can be.
I hope and pray that over this week you realise more and more who and what you are in his kingdom.

Bless ya
Pastor Mike

Pastor’s Pen 31st May 2020

Shalom. Be reminded of how immense the universe is… and then consider that the Creator of it knows you.
Well this weekend sees us back together on a Sunday morning. There’ll be forms to sign, hands to clean and guidelines to observe but we’ve nearly made it through lockdown.
In Aotearoa we have largely dodged the pandemic that is still raging in many places. Through out this time I have been intrigued by the number of ‘prophetic’ proclamations and conspiracy theories that have abounded. Many of these have arisen because as humans we love to ‘know’ and secret knowledge is even better. So when crises occur we sense a slip in our knowledge and we seek to understand why it happened and what will be the result. A conspiracy appeals to many and often based on half truths they can seem plausible… who knows, some of them might be true.
Essentially we like to know what’s coming up, so we accept things that normally we wouldn’t. After all, these haven’t been normal times.
I have been asked if I think these are the end days and is Jesus returning soon?
Well, I don’t know. On one hand yes… we’ve been in the end times ever since Jesus ascended… there have been many times throughout history people have considered that the end days were here, but we’ve yet to see him descend through the clouds.
Whenever I find myself facing this I’m reminded of Matthew 6 v34…“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
I think it’s good to consider the implications of Jesus return but we should approach everyday as if it were our last opportunity to worship him, because you never know… it might be.
I’m content with leaving some mystery in the hands of a loving Saviour and trusting … that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:6
Until then… have an awesome week.

Bless ya
Pastor Mike

Pastor’s Pen 24th May 2020

Shalom. With God all things are possible, and in God may you also find them beneficial and permissible.

Repentance is important to a Christian. To repent means to change your direction, to change your mind, to change your lifestyle, your habits and your relationships. Unless these changes have taken place in your life, you have never really come to know Jesus Christ. Repentance, true repentance, is followed by a transformed mind and life. It’s a radical thing.
Grace is, I believe, a really good sign that repentance is at work. Not that you freely accept grace and see it as a free ticket out of your sin and a pardon for bad behaviour – What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? (Romans 6.1-2)
Grace holds us in wonder as we realise the immensity of forgiveness that has been awarded us and further realise we don’t deserve it and then realise even further that regardless of that we are truly free!!! Grace is the act of God that we respond to in thankfulness and gratitude, it begets an attitude of amazed appreciation for what God has done and propels us to a desire of wanting to show God the depth of that gratitude by living lives that bring Him glory; not because we have to, but because we want to. We don’t view it as a free ticket, but as an invitation into a lifelong journey of growth, discovery, joy, suffering and servanthood.
We are beginning to understand grace when we can honestly be satisfied with whom we are, warts and all…
9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. ” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor 12. 9-10)

Grace doesn’t always change us, but it always allows us to change. Grace is a gift, given to us from God, and often in relationships, it’s the best gift we can give others. Grace gives us room to be ourselves, it doesn’t excuse bad behaviour, attitudes or language; it helps us find the strength to face it and the wisdom to repent of it.

I hope that you have a grace-filled week flowing from repentance as Christ continues to complete the good work He began in you.

Bless ya
Pastor Mike

Pastor’s Pen 17th May 2020

Shalom. Remember that you are never truly alone, Jesus is always with you.

We’re on the cusp of moving to level 2 as I write this and whilst it will bring quite a few changes to how we function, it doesn’t yet allow us back into our Sunday morning gatherings together in our building. Instead we will be having house groups available for up to 10 maximum (dependent on the size of the house) and are even now (Wed morning) still trying to organise them. We’re getting there and hope to be able to include all those who are keen to be involved. Look out for more information coming…
Whatever happens, if you are feeling unwell please do not attend a house group. Also, if you are immune compromised, it may be better to wait for a bit longer before mingling with a larger group.
I’ve had some difficult moments this week myself. Part of it may be due to less beach walking as Lochy recuperates from another ear operation and is unable to swim. Part of it may be the wetter weather. Part of it may be missing everyone else… whatever it is, it’s been a struggle at times.
Psalm 46:10a says… Be still and know that I am God!
Sometimes that stillness can be difficult to achieve in your inner space as a hundred different situations vie for your attention… prayer needs, sermon ideas, relational challenges people face, intercession, illness, stresses, workplace situations, the list goes on…
In the midst of all of these good challenges, I sometimes struggle to be still. To hone in on that quiet voice, that whisper, that echo of divinity that anchors me in the storm of life.
Have you ever been out in a storm? It’s quite an amazing thing. Lochy and I have walked the beach in the middle of them and it can get tiring as you simply try to walk down the sand, the wind driving the rain into your face, leaking through your waterproof layers and chilling you slowly, though Lochy seems to be impervious to it and simply enjoys himself. It’s invigorating after you get out of the weather and dry off and are able to observe the weather beating the window instead of your face, the rain lashing the glass instead of your body and you feel the warmth seeping in to your core as the cold is defeated.
That’s kind of how I feel, when I can find that place to ‘Be still and know that I am God’.
It’s been a struggle to get there this week, but I’m discovering it slowly.
I pray you can be sheltered from the storms that may pass your way. Whatever they may be.

Bless ya
Pastor Mike

Pastor’s Pen 10th May 2020

Shalom. Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you daily in your understanding of God’s word.
Our God is indefinable in the sense he has no limitations. Whilst we may have some definition of his character and his nature we cannot put him in a box.
Often I see people yearning for the supernatural aspects of God to manifest at any time things become difficult or different. Such a time as this pandemic is no exception. Can God make this virus go away like a miracle’? Of course he can… but he hasn’t.
Can God cure people who are ill, not just with this virus, but a multitude of other sicknesses and diseases? Yes, I believe he can, and sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn’t.
Can God make everything nice and pleasant, fluffy and nice. Yes he could, but he is very unlikely to in my experience.
You see adversity can deepen us, it can mould us, it can test us, it builds perseverance and develops character.
We see hard times as hard… fair enough… but to be treated as a safety and health issue and therefore we need to eliminate, minimize or isolate the effects far from us.

Don’t think I’m saying we should pursue hard times, no, we shouldn’t. But we should be prepared for them to happen, we should expect them and we should accept them when they come.
We shouldn’t view them necessarily as a punishment for something we have done wrong (though they might be a consequence of them). Often hard times, such as many have experienced recently and may continue to as the ramifications of the pandemic and ensuing lockdown continue, aren’t directly attributable to something we have done. In cases like this we tend to hold God responsible, we even call them ‘acts of God’, and ultimately that is true. God is always sovereign but often we have a collective responsibility to issues that no one person is responsible for.
Why are there literally millions of people starving in the world? There is enough food, we just don’t distribute it equally.
Why are millions of people living in poverty? There’s enough wealth, but it’s distributed unfairly.
God could supernaturally intervene because he is a supernatural God, but he’s also the God of the natural and chooses to allow us to seek the answers.
Have you heard the line… Your often the answer to your own prayer… Often we see a need (plenty of times because of hardship) and we bring it to God in prayer.
The challenge for each of us is that normally we seek someone to answer our concern because we have no idea how to do it in our own skin.
We as a little church in Whitianga can’t solve world hunger or poverty… but we can make a difference in our community, our local and global community. We can’t help everyone, but we can help someone. We can’t provide for every need, but we can provide some needs.
It was so amazing to see what happened with the resources we were able to send to Fiji recently as they grappled with the consequences of the recent storm… we couldn’t get them everything, but we helped them with something.
And we should, because Jesus’ love compels us to… even if, or especially when, it’s hard.
Maybe we could help our neighbors or workmates. Maybe there are people who are really missing their family… I know I am. We can’t fix that, but we could let them know we understand what’s it like because we have those feelings too and we care.
Maybe we could drop a card off to someone… join our neighbors for a drink in the street… plan a celebration for when we can actually get together and feast?
Maybe we could do something?
Because even a little can go a long way, I saw that in Fiji and I’d love to be able to see how else we can. You see, the more we get involved, the more we can see where God is at work.

Have a great week and have fun trying something to answer your prayers.

Bless ya
Pastor Mike

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