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Pastor's Blog

Being Lightbearers - June 21

A preacher was in Atlanta, several years ago, and noticed in the restaurants section of the Yellow Pages, an entry for a place called Church of God Grill. The peculiar name aroused his curiosity and he dialed the number. A man answered with a cheery, “Hello! Church of God Grill!”

The preacher asked how that restaurant had been given such an unusual name, and the man said: “Well, we had a little mission down here, and we started selling chicken dinners after church on Sunday to help pay the bills. Well, people liked the chicken, and we did such a good business, that eventually we cut back on the church service. After a while we just closed down the church altogether and kept on serving chicken dinners. We kept the name we started with, and that’s Church of God Grill.” Source: Making it Happen, Charles Paul Conn.

How tragic! A church that lost its purpose. But could we as Seventh-day Adventists be in danger of the same thing? I think so. So what is our purpose?

It can be summed up very simply in two points: One, the Great Commission - In the great commission Jesus told His disciples to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19,20). The Adventist Church's mission is to do just that - make disciples of all nations. Two, in Revelation 14 we see three angels flying in the midst of heaven having messages for the entire world. These messages include the proclamation of the everlasting gospel (specifically to fear God, give Him glory, and worship Him because the judgement has begun), a proclamation that Babylon has fallen, and finally a warning against receiving the Mark of the Beast.

Highlighting the importance of keeping these messages front and centre Ellen White says "In a special sense Seventh-day Adventists have been set in the world as watchman and light bearers. To them has been entrusted the last warning for a perishing world. On them is shining wonderful light from the Word of God. They have been given a work of the most solemn import, - the proclamation of the first, second, and third angels’ messages. There is no other work of so great importance. They are to allow nothing else to absorb their attention.” Evangelism, p. 119.

Renewing Our Vows - 16 June, 2022

Communion service is a special time in the life of the church where we come together and partake of the bread and grape juice to remember our Lord’s sacrifice for us. The foot washing time that precedes the service reminds us of the need to be servants to one another and to confess any offences or wrongs we may have committed against one another. We could look at the entire service as a renewal of our vows to Christ and each other. Yes, even a reset in our Christian lives!

Because of this, I encourage you to prepare your heart for this sacred service beforehand by rededicating your life to Christ and, if needed, picking up the phone and calling that one that you need to be reconciled with. When we prepare our hearts beforehand, Communion moves from a mere ceremony to a life-changing experience with God.

Ellen White says “Christ by the Holy Spirit is there to set the seal to His own ordinance. He is there to convict and soften the heart. Not a look, not a thought of contrition, escapes His notice. For the repentant, broken-hearted one He is waiting. All things are ready for that soul’s reception. He who washed the feet of Judas longs to wash every heart from the stain of sin. None should exclude themselves from the Communion because some who are unworthy may be present. Every disciple is called upon to participate publicly, and thus bear witness that he accepts Christ as a personal Saviour. It is at these, His own appointments, that Christ meets His people, and energizes them by His presence. Hearts and hands that are unworthy may even administer the ordinance, yet Christ is there to minister to His children. All who come with their faith fixed upon Him will be greatly blessed. All who neglect these seasons of divine privilege will suffer loss. Of them it may appropriately be said, ‘Ye are not all clean.’” The Desire of Ages, p. 658

Heavenly laundry - June 1

I'm not a fan of household chores but if I could pick one to do above the rest it would probably be doing the laundry (although vacuuming would rate pretty high too). Think about it. It takes a lot less brain power than cooking, and its definitely easier than doing mountains of dishes. But then again it depends where and how you do your laundry I guess. I definitely know that by experience. You see, me and laundry go back a long way.

My first real taste of doing laundry was at Longburn College. The biggest challenge there was beating the Friday afternoon rush for the machines which I never seemed to be able to do. Then came Weimar College in the US. There the biggest challenge was saving up enough money to even do it (the machines took quarters). Then after College I spent my fair share of time sitting at laundry mats in Utah, Nevada and finally Michigan while a seminarian. But I didn't really earn my stripes for laundry until we went to Cambodia. That's when the real grind began - doing it by hand. One of the biggest challenges of doing it by hand I soon discovered was not making the laundry more stained because of my bloodied knuckles!

So maybe this is why I have grown to love the verses in the Bible that talk about doing your laundry (yes, they are really in there). Here are two of my favourites: Revelation 19:7,8 and Revelation 7:13,14.

Firstly, Revelation 19:7,8 says "Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. (8) And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints."

This verse says the bride (God's people) has made herself ready for the wedding and now wears a beautifully clean and bright linen dress (or robe). With the verse's emphasis on the "clean and brightness" of the cloth, my inner laundry animal asks "What laundry mat did she go to to get robes as bright as that!?" Apparently I'm not the only one who is wondering. In Revelation 7:13 and 14 one of the Elders asks the same question. Listen...

"Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, 'Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?' (14) And I said to him, 'Sir, you know.' So he said to me, 'These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."

Wow! Did you catch that? Revelation tells us exactly where to go to get perfectly white robes - and that place is Jesus! And I'm glad that His blood, unlike mine, actually makes the robes whiter not dirtier! Praise God for the blood of Jesus!

But there is a vital lesson in these verses that we must understand - Jesus won't do our laundry for us! Verse 14 says the saints are the ones who actually do the washing! What does that mean? Simply this. Firstly, we are the only ones who can give over our filthy garments to Jesus - no one else can force us to do that - not even Him. Secondly, once we voluntarily throw our filthy garments upon His blood, we need to make sure it infuses the entire fabric. This means that we are to invite Jesus to enter and clean every part of our character. So remember, its only His blood that can do the cleansing but we are the ones who need to make it our own! Now that's the kind of laundry mat that I need. How about you?

Doing the Little Things - May 18, 2022

Little things can make a big difference! CNN reported just how big a difference that can be:

"Nasa lost a $125 million Mars orbiter because a Lockheed Martin engineering team used English units of measurement while the agency's team used the more conventional meters system for a key spacecraft operation...After a 286-day journey, the probe fired its engine on September 23 (1999) to push itself into orbit. The engine fired but the spacecraft came within 60 km of the planet - about 100 km closer than planned and about 25 km beneath the level at which it could function properly." CNN.com, Metric Mishap Caused Loss of NASA Orbiter, Sept. 30, 1999. According to the article, because of the confusion on the numbers, NASA believes the orbiter probably shot through Mars' atmosphere coming out the other side, and now could be orbiting the Sun! Whoops!

Fortunately little things can make a big difference for the better too. One of my favourite Bible stories is of the little maid. You can read about her in 2 Kings 5. Apparently this young girl was taken captive while Naaman, commander of the Syrian forces, was on one of his border raids in Israel. Being wrenched from everything near and dear, you would expect this young girl to have gotten bitter. But instead of returning evil for evil, she directs Naaman in his hour of need (he got leprosy) to the God of heaven by way of prophet Elisha. Listen to her innocent words of faith: "If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy." (2 Kings 5:3). Obviously touched with his young captive's sympathy he decides to take her advice which sets in motion a chain of events leading to his complete healing. Wow! A little maid making a big difference!

Sometimes in trying to make a big difference for God we look to the "big" things we can do for Him. Maybe we think we have to preach a sermon, give a bible study, or teach an outreach seminar. While these are great ways to serve God, more often than not, it's through the little things that lives are impacted for Him. I wonder if sometimes we need to lower our sights and focus on the little things more. After all, look what He did through the sympathy of a little maid!

Being the Light - May 11, 2022

When my wife and I were pastoring in the state of Michigan a number of years ago, I saw a humorous cartoon giving some "facts" about the state and it's notoriously bad roads and seeming endless road construction projects. In the cartoon asphalt is labelled as the "State Mineral", the road works sign saying "Road Work Ahead Expect Delays" labelled the "State Moto", the lollipop stop and go sign labelled the "State Flag", and the sign "Men Working" labelled the "State Joke" (I laughed at that last one the most!!) But if I'm really honest that last one comes pretty close to home (or should I say the church?).

You see I wonder sometimes if we, as God's church, are truly living up to our profession? When Jesus calls us "the salt of the earth" are we really having a savouring influence in our town/district/neighbourhood or are we just content to hang out in the salt shaker? Or when He says "you are the light of the world" are we striving to enter the dark areas of our street/block/village to make things brighter or are we happy to confine our world to our family, friends, and fellow church members?

Too often we become focused on the "shaking" (a period of time Ellen White refers to toward the end of time when many of our Lukewarm members will be shaken out of the church) and forget to ask God to shake us into a dying world. Too often we focus on being called out of the "darkness" (a theme which the Bible clearly talks about) but forget to let our light shine where its needed most! Perhaps Jesus words to the Pharisees could be applied to us: "These you ought to have done without neglecting the other" (Luke 11:42).

So what is Jesus really calling us to? Contrasting the ministry of John with that of Jesus, Ellen White says "God had directed John the Baptist to dwell in the wilderness, that he might be shielded from the influence of the priests and rabbis, and be prepared for a special mission. But the austerity and isolation of his life were not an example for the people. John himself had not directed his hearers to forsake their former duties. He bade them give evidence of their repentance by faithfulness to God in the place where He had called them. Jesus reproved self-indulgence in all its forms, yet He was social in His nature. He accepted the hospitality of all classes, visiting the homes of the rich and the poor, the learned and the ignorant, and seeking to elevate their thoughts from questions of commonplace life to those things that are spiritual and eternal..." Desire of Ages, p. 160.

May God help us not only see the light but be the light. May He help us to not only be preserved but be a preserving influence to those all around us! 

A Passion For the Harvest - May 5, 2022

In 2009 a group of 10 cereal farmers from Ireland, got together and organised the largest gathering of working combine harvesters ever to work simultaneously in one field. 175 combine harvesters! This was such a spectacle that 20,000 spectators gathered to see the historic event. Well, they smashed the world record.

But you know what happens when you smash a world record? It makes others want to break your world record too. So a group of Canadian farmers gathered over 200 combine harvesters and smashed the Irish record.

Then in 2012, with their Irish pride at stake, the 10 Irish cereal farmers returned with 208 combines to reclaim the world record. Since then, even greater numbers of combine harvesters have been assembled all with the goal of seeing how fast they can bring in the harvest.

But listen to this – This is more than smashing records for these men. You see, the 10 Irish farmers do it for love. They call themselves “Combines 4 Charity” and they have raised (the last time I checked) over 480,000 pounds for charity.

But I was intrigued by what one of the harvesters had emblazoned on their combine harvester – “If the Moistures right, we’ll go all night!"

Now that’s a passion for the harvest!

In Luke 10:2 Jesus tells us about an even bigger harvest - a harvest of people. He says "The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into His harvest."

Could Jesus' invitation to begin praying for labourers to enter His harvest also be an invitation to become one of those labourers ourselves? Imagine what would happen if we took this prayer to heart personally. Not only that - imagine what God would do if we all linked up together to "bring in the sheaves". Why don't we start praying that prayer today!

Praying the Radical Prayer - April 26, 2022

Ever wondered how quickly it takes for God to answer a prayer? Well, in at least one instance, the same time it took for an angel to travel from heaven to earth. That may sound like ages but in Daniel 9 it only took 17 verses! Now that's fast!!

Some of you are thinking "I wish I could receive an answer within 17 verses. It feels more like 17 years for my prayers to be answered!" Take heart! God's ways are not our ways and we can leave the best timing to Him. But there is a way we can make sure our prayers are always heard and answered! How, you ask? By praying the prayer Jesus told us to pray. No, its not the Lord's Prayer either (as wonderful as that is). It's the prayer for the harvest. Jesus said:

"''The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into His harvest." Luke 10:2.

Would you like God to transform your prayer life? Then I invite you to begin praying the prayer Jesus instructed you to pray - for the "Lord of the harvest" (God) to send out "reapers" (people like you and me) into His "harvest" (the community all around us) to begin "reaping" souls for His kingdom!

And here's one more invitation - This Sabbath we will begin a new preaching series looking at this radical prayer of Jesus. Much of the series will be based on the book "The Radical Prayer" by Derek Morris which will help us not only plumb the depths of this powerful prayer but experience it as well! (Go to our Facebook page to view)

Catching a Wave - 19 April, 2022

This past Sunday Caleb and I went for a surf with Grant Boniface (well maybe I should say Caleb went for a surf with Grant - a "paddle" would be more of an accurate description for what I did!) But though never getting on my feet, I did experience the thrill that comes when you actually catch a wave (yes, you can do that even when you are just lying on the board.) Suddenly you go from a slow and rather strenuous paddle to a sudden, powerful surge forward that takes you all the way to the shore. When you catch a wave you know it! It is powerful, exhilarating, and scary, all at the same time. Hopefully I'll get to the stage where I can stand up and enjoy it even more.

But there are three things that I learned from my "surf" on Sunday. The first thing is how powerful waves really are. When you catch one, there's no stopping you. The second thing is that you need to position yourself on the wave to catch it. If you're not facing the right way, or paddling at just the right time in the direction you want to go, the wave will go right on under you and leave you behind. And third, though the initial paddling can take some energy, once you catch a wave the power that takes you places comes completely from the wave and not yourself.

I think there are some amazing parallels between surfing and reaching out for God. Firstly, God is powerful and wants to powerfully work in our lives and the lives of others. Secondly, for God to use us in reaching out to others, we need to position ourselves to tap into His power (we do that by going deeper with Him through prayer, Bible study, and stepping out in faith). And thirdly, though it takes some energy to tap into that power (prayer, Bible study, and reaching out do take time and energy), once we tap into God's power amazing things happen in His strength and not our own!

So how about you? Are you wanting to experience His power today? Surfs Up!

"Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls; All Your waves and billows have gone over me. The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me - a prayer to the God of my life." Psalm 42:7, 8.

Connecting the Dots - 13 April, 2022

In our last few Pastor's pages we have been looking at how to "fight in our own armour" when doing God's work. "Fighting in one's own armour" means allowing God to use the gifts/talents/experiences He has given each of us personally to reach out to others. This allows our witness to be natural which gives us freedom and joy as we share our faith.

Having said that, there are some essential keys that will enhance all of our witnessing - no matter who we are. The first key is prayer. In Acts 10 we have a powerful story of a Roman Centurion named Cornelius. Cornelius, though a gentile, feared God, gave alms, and prayed continually. About the ninth hour of the day (3 pm which was the time for the afternoon sacrifice in Jerusalem) he receives a vision of an angel. The angel tells him that his prayers and alms have been heard by God and to send men to Joppa to meet with Peter who would tell him what to do. Meanwhile down in Joppa, Peter is visiting in the home of Simon the tanner. The following day at noon Peter makes his way up to the roof to pray. As he prays he too sees a vision. The vision relates to the men whom Cornelius has dispatched to meet him (although he doesn't know that yet). After the vision is complete and he wonders about its meaning, there's a knock on the door and its Cornelius' servants! To cut a long story short, Peter comprehends the meaning of the vision and accompanies them back to their masters house where Peter shares the gospel. While he is sharing the gospel, the Holy Spirit falls and Cornelius and his household are baptised.

Here's the question: What connected the "non-believer" to the "believer"? Was it Peter strategising how to reach Caesarea with the gospel? Was it Cornelius doing a google search for the local religious leaders? No, neither. It was through prayer! You see only God knows who is ready to be connected with you to hear the gospel - not you. And when you pray, God begins to "connect the dots!" So here's a challenge: Begin asking God to give you divine appointments with people whom He wants to connect with you. Then keep looking for what He will do. You'll be amazed at how quickly He will answer your prayer! Why not even start today?

Fighting in Our Own Armour - 5 April, 2022

Last week we took a brief look at David going out to fight Goliath. As he prepared to face the giant, King Saul tried to persuade David to go fight in his armour. As David suited up he soon discovered that rather than aiding him, Saul's armour actually weighed him down. After shedding the kings armour David picks up what he is familiar with, a simple sling and five smooth stones, and goes out to face Goliath in his own armour (as basic as that armour was)! The lesson is a simple yet powerful one: When God calls us into battle, He wants us to fight "in our own armour" not anyone else's.  

So what does fighting "in our own armour" actually mean? It simply means recognising the unique personality, gifts, and experiences that God has given you, then praying for opportunities to use these to reach others. You see there are people out there who will only resonate with you. If you try and be someone else, you rob them of seeing the gospel in the very one they need to see it in - you!

One thing I love doing is reading about the different types of people Jesus used to reach others. Take the following people for example: God uses Peter's confrontational approach to reach the multitude on the day of Pentecost. God uses Paul's intellectual approach to reach the philosophers of Athens. God uses the healed blind man's testimonial approach to bring light to the Pharisees. God uses Matthew's interpersonal approach to reach his friends. God uses the Samaritan women's invitational approach to bring her city to hear Jesus. God uses Dorcas' service approach to be both a blessing to the church and surrounding community. And I'm sure the list could go on. Each one very different, but just what God needed for each situation.

So what kind of approach does God want you to use in reaching others for Him? I challenge you to pray that God would give you an understanding of the unique gifts and talents He has given you and then pray He will open doors for you to use them this week! You'll be amazed at what He does!

Being You - 29 March, 2022

Have you ever tried to be somebody else? Jacob did but it didn't work out too well! (If you don't know the story check out Genesis 27). While most of us wouldn't pull Jacob's stunt and put on somebody else's clothes (who wants to smell like someone else's BO anyway?) or tie literal goat-kid skins to our hands and arms (how itchy would that be?), we can still fall into the trap of trying to be someone we're not. For some people its wanting to look as pretty as someone else, or as muscular, or as rich, or as successful, or as sporty, or as....(you name it). Sorry to break it to you but the harsh reality is that you will never be just like that other person! And why would you even want to? God has made you uniquely you and He knows what He's doing. 

And that brings me to the story in the Bible that I really want you to stop and think about. You see this story is about someone who was pressured to be someone they weren't but resisted! 

David was on an errand from his father to take some grain and bread to his brothers who were stationed with the Israelite army on a hill opposite their enemy the Philistines. After David arrived at the front lines, it didn't take him long to see what was happening. Goliath, the champion of the Philistines was taunting Israel with his might and mocking Israel's weakness. Soon David's righteous indignation was aroused and he told King Saul that he would go and fight the big, bumbling, uncircumcised beast himself! And then the Bible says "So Saul clothed David with his armour, and he put a bronze helmet on his head; he also clothed him with a coat of mail." (1 Samuel 17:38). What better preparation for battle than to dress up in the kings armour right? Wrong! The story continues, "David fastened his sword to his armour and tried to walk, for he had not tested them. And David said to Saul, 'I cannot walk with these, for I have not tested them.' So David took them off." (verse 39). And now here's the pivotal point - after shedding the armour of another, he runs into battle in his own! (Which happened to look very different to Saul's!!). David conquers Goliath the giant with his sling, cuts off his head with Goliath's own sword, and God's people won a great victory.

So what can we learn from this story? Probably lots. But here is the point that I want to bring out. God want's us to fight in our own armour - not someone else's! Or to use another metaphor - be comfortable in our own skin! In our next few Pastor's Page's we'll be looking at what that means in the church. You see God has a special place and work for you in His church - and its only you who can fill it. Keep tuned - its time to bring out your armour!

God's Team - 20 March, 2022

In sports channel ESPN's famous documentary ("The Last Dance") on the Chicago Bulls basketball team, Michael Jordan (perhaps the greatest basketball player of all time) shares an exchange he had with one of the team's managers following another win in which he scores more points than anyone else on the team. "There's no 'I' in the word 'team' Michael" his manager says sarcastically to which Michael replies "No, but there's an 'I' in the word 'win'!" Michael Jordan was known as the most fierce competitor of them all and He would do almost anything to secure the win - even to the point of disregarding the other players on the team to do it.

As much as people revere Michael Jordan's ability on the court, is securing "the win" more important than anything else? More important even than the team? Maybe in the short term it might seem like it is, but in the long term working together as a team always works out to be the best strategy. Apparently even God thought so. Consider the following:

Over and over in the Bible we see God working as a team. Think Ananias and Saul (who later became Paul). After Saul sees a vision of Jesus and his eyes become covered in scales, rather than healing him on the spot, God directs him to meet another person named Ananias who would be the vessel for the miracle instead (see Acts 9:10-19). Think Peter and Cornelius. God could have instructed Cornelius and his household by the same angel who appeared to him in vision but rather tells him to send for Peter who would tell him what he must do (see Acts 10:5,6). Then there's Jesus, the creator of the Universe, who takes a small boys five barley loaves and two fish, multiplies it, then gives it to His disciples to hand out to the multitude (see John 6:1-14).

So how about you? Are you part of God's team? He's wanting to use you today!

Let Your Light Shine - 11 March, 2022

I'm sure we've all been shocked and saddened by the events in Ukraine over the past couple of weeks. Unprovoked attack, escalating war, blood-shed, civilians bombed, a refugee crisis - its been a dark two weeks for Europe! Yet in the midst of the gloom we see and hear stories of courage, bravery, and self-sacrifice which pierce the darkness and give us hope for the people of Ukraine. Undoubtedly the bravery and resolve of Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian President, shines out as the brightest example. Some would argue that his bravery and inspiring speeches has been the key factor in keeping Ukraine's hopes alive and resolve strong. Let us pray for Ukraine and all of the other people who have been caught up in this terrible conflict!

But there is another darkness that is just as deep as the darkness of war. This darkness is not limited to geography, nationality, or political persuasion. This darkness is all around us everyday. It's the spiritual darkness of sin and it manifests itself in people's lives bringing anxiety, depression, anger, abuse, hopelessness, etc. Many people are so overwhelmed by this darkness that they have lost all hope. It's to this darkness that Jesus calls us to be light. "You are the light of the world." (Matt. 5:14.)

Last week we discovered that in and of ourselves we have no light. We can only be "the light of the world" when we receive light from God and reflect it to others. But what other gems can we uncover in Jesus call to be light?

Firstly, the "you" is plural not singular. In other words, Jesus says the entire church is the "light of the world". Apparently the light of Jesus shines out most effectively as we all shine together in unity! I am thankful that we don't have to be the light of the world on our own! Jesus has given everyone in our church a gift to be used to bring the light.

Second, Jesus continues His talk about light by saying "A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. (15) Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house." Matt. 5:14,15. Apparently, to be "the light of the world" Jesus says we need to be visible. Similar to salt, light needs to get close to people for them to be benefited by it. It seems Jesus is calling us as a church to look beyond the walls of our nice cosy living rooms and even beyond the newly painted walls of our renovated sanctuary, into our community to bring light.

Our theme this year is "I Will Go!" Lets ask God to help us discover ways to let our light shine, not only as individuals but as a church body as well!

Reflecting Light - 4 March, 2022

I love looking at glow worms and I've had the privilege of doing it twice in the last couple of weeks - once at Manganuku camp with the Pathfinders, and once with some friends at Lake Rotoiti near Rotorua. Every time I gaze up at these interesting little creatures I get the feeling I'm not looking at maggots at all (yes, that's what they really are) but looking up at stars in the night sky!

But there's a big big difference between glow worms and stars, and its not just their size. Many of the stars you see are actually not stars at all but planets. What's a planet? Among other things, planets don't produce their own light. For them to shine they have to reflect it from another source like the Sun. But don't let this disappoint you. When the light hits a planet, it can be absolutely dazzling (if in doubt just take a look at a picture of planet earth sometime!)

So how about glow worms? Well glow worms actually produce light themselves. Curiously, the way they do this is by a molecule called Luciferin (sounds a bit like Lucifer doesn't it). Luciferin mixes with oxygen to create oxyluciferin. Then a chemical reaction with the light-emitting enzyme luciferase produces their illuninations (see www.nhm.ac.uk). That light is then used to attract and ensnare the glow worms prey!

There's a great spiritual lesson to be learned from comparing the planets and glow worms. Planets reflect light from something greater than themselves - that light (at least for planet earth) then produces life. Glow worms on the other hand produce light on their own and that light brings death.

What do you want to be like today - a planet which reflects light from something more dazzling - or a glow worm which produces light on its own? I want to suggest to you that God's plan for us has never been to produce light on our own but rather to reflect His light!

In the sermon on the mount, right after Jesus finishes calling His followers to be the salt of the earth, He goes on and says "You are the light of the world...(16) Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."

It kind of sounds like a planet doesn't it? God wants to reflect His light to us so that we can reflect light to others. This week why not reflect the light of God with someone He puts in your path? 

Out of the Salt Shaker - 22 February, 2022

Last week we looked at Jesus' call to be salt. We discovered that Jesus wants us to have a preserving effect, a seasoning effect, and a thirst-inducing effect on the world around us. We also discovered that the secret to being all of these things (we could say the secret to our potency) is by receiving the righteousness of Christ in fresh supplies every day! How cool is that!!

But Jesus wasn't done. He continued on "....But if the salt loses its flavour how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men." Matthew 5:13.

Not only does Jesus call us to be potent, flavourful salt, He also warns us to not lose our potency. So what was Jesus getting at? Well, if we follow His salt metaphor through to its conclusion, the way we lose our flavour is by losing our connection to the One that makes us potent in the first place - Jesus and His righteousness! So that's warning number one - stay connected to Jesus!

But then there's another one - we lose our flavour when we don't mix with the world around us. Jesus was painfully aware of the mountains of salt around the Dead Sea. When salt doesn't spread out, it stagnates, loses its flavour, and ultimately brings death. Likewise, when Christians stay huddled together and refuse to mingle with the community around them, they become stagnant and ineffective in the world.

So what is Jesus telling us? Its time to get out of the shaker and mingle in the community! At our last Church Board meeting we adopted the theme "I Will Go" for 2022. So how do we do that in a practical sense? Is it by going door-to-door or peaching on the street corner maybe? Well there might be some of that but let me challenge you with a few more simpler ideas:

1. Pray every morning for God to direct you to someone you can be "salt" to.

2. Begin mingling with people who aren't believers.

3. Look for opportunities to sympathise with them in their struggles.

4. Look for opportunities to help them with a need.

5. And once you have won their confidence, prayerfully keep you eyes open for opportunities to share your faith in a non-judgmental way.

"God, help us to love people enough to go out of our comfort zone and be salt today!"

Salt of the Earth - 17 February, 2022

Do you like salt? I do! It just seems to bring out the flavour when it's sprinkled on, doesn't it?

In His famous sermon on the Mount, Jesus said "You are the Salt of the Earth..." (Matthew 5:13)". So what was He meaning? How can people be salt!?

In Bible times salt served several important purposes. Firstly, salt was a preservative. In order to keep meat fresh, salt would be rubbed onto its surface or the meat would be soaked in brine. Because of Salt's aseptic properties no harmful bacteria could grow in its presence. Jesus wants our presence with those around us to be a preserving agent also. His presence in our lives will squelch out sin and in its place bring love and a positive influence on others.

Secondly, salt was a seasoner. All of us have tasted food that needed a bit more "pep"! When you add salt, it brings out the flavour making things more tasty! Likewise, Jesus presence brings richness to life, which then rubs off on others making their lives more rewarding.

And thirdly, salt makes people thirsty. One of the properties of salt is that it attracts water. Every farmer knows that cattle get thirsty when they lick a salt block. Now you also know why salty nuts or pretzels are used in bars - it makes people want to order more drinks! When we have Jesus in our lives not only will we long for more and more of His life giving water, others will too!

So how can I be salt today? I'm glad you asked! Interestingly, Jesus invites us to "have salt in yourselves." (Mark 9:50). This implies that to be salt we need to receive it from somewhere first. What's Jesus talking about? In the Old Testament we are told that every offering was to be offered with salt (see Leviticus 2:13). Apparently God liked a tasty offering as much as we do! In pulling back the curtain on this ancient practice Ellen White says:

“In the ritual service, salt was added to every sacrifice. This, like the offering of incense, signified that only the righteousness of Christ could make the service acceptable to God...’Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.’...All who would present themselves a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God’ (Rom. 12:1), must receive the saving salt, the righteousness of our Saviour. Then they become ‘the salt of the earth,’ restraining evil among men, as salt preserves from corruption.” Desire of Ages, 439.

So are you wanting to make a difference in your corner of the world today? Then be salted with the righteousness of Christ, and go forth and season the Earth! 

Surviving or Thriving - 10 February, 2022

One of the most enjoyable activities we experienced on our recent holiday was climbing Mount Taranaki. Heading out from the car park well before dawn, Caleb and I were well up the slope of the Mountain by the time the sun popped up. And we were glad we left early - not only to beat the heat - but to catch the dawning light just before sun up. Both Mount Taranaki with its vivid greens and browns, and the surrounding dark blue landscape below was a sight to behold. But what we weren't expecting to see was something much smaller - bugs - on some of the highest slopes of the mountain and even on the summit itself! What were they dong there? As Caleb and I gazed at a lady bird, a spider, and a wasp, we wondered how such apparently fragile creatures could make it so high and live in such a harsh environment. We were amazed at the power and adaptability of God's creation! Last Sabbath we began our series entitled "Babylon Rising" and began looking at the harsh environment we are finding ourselves living in today. No, I'm not talking the weather here but society. Have you noticed it? It seems society is changing fast, becoming more extreme, more cold, more unloving, more hostile to life. The scary thing is is that sometimes we even see glimpses of it in the church! Interestingly, the days we are living in are not so unlike the days of Daniel. Daniel faced a very hostile environment too. One that was getting colder by the hour. Think of it - his people had grieved God who was now giving them over to their enemies, he was wrenched away from everything and everyone dear, he was put into a retraining program to reprogram him, he was renamed to change his very identity, and last but not least, was pressured to compromise his faith. Talk about pressure! So did it break Daniel and his three friends? Incredibly we don't only see Daniel and his mates survive but actually begin to thrive! Now that's the experience we need during these days of pandemic, social unrest, abounding iniquity, (and the list could go on....), don't we? So how do we not just survive but thrive? Well, I'm glad you asked! This is a personal invitation to begin plugging in to our Sabbath morning preaching series entitled "Babylon Rising" to discover the keys to thrive. Throughout this series, I will be sharing messages designed for times like the ones we are living in now. We look forward to connecting with you then!

New Years Resolutions - 7 January, 2022

New Year’s Resolutions. Ever made one of those? 

On one 2020 survey, 31% of people said they planned on making a new years resolution. Here were the top four resolutions made for 2021: Exercise more (50%), Lose weight (48%), Save money (44%), and Improve my diet (39%). 

So how successful are people at keeping their New Year’s Resolutions? Of those that made resolutions in 2020, 35% kept all their resolutions, 49% kept some of their resolutions, and only 16% failed at keeping any of their resolutions. It seems that when it comes to New Years resolutions for most people "the spirit is indeed willing but the flesh is indeed weak"!

Despite the rather depressing numbers I decided to make four resolutions this year. Here they are:

1. Read three chapters from my Bible every night before bed (this is in addition to my regular morning devotional time with God)

2. Read 8 books (1 every 6 weeks)

3. Exercise 5 times a week

4. Climb a Mountain

Why make New Years resolutions you ask? Here are some inspiring quotes from Ellen White that gives me the reason:

"Success in any line demands a definite aim. He who would achieve true success in life must keep steadily in view the aim worthy of his endeavour. Such an aim is set before the youth of today." Education pg. 262.

"An aimless life is a living death. The mind should dwell upon themes relating to our eternal interests. This will be conducive to health of body and mind." The Review and Herald, July 29, 1884.

So how about you? What is God calling you to this year? 

Keeping Love Alive - 30 December, 2021

"Do you remember when Caleb turned 1 and put his entire face into his birthday cake?"

"What about the time we went camping in the Smokey Mountains, and the Bear came around our tent and scared the living daylights out of us!" "Well what about that holiday we went on in Cambodia and that dodgy snorkelling boat we had to ride on - I thought we were going to sink!"

One of the things we enjoy doing as a family when we get together for holidays is to share memories from years gone by. Whether it was some special holiday we went on, some humorous event that happened, or just a favourite place or activity, the sharing of memories help remind us of times spent together and the love we have for one another and inspires us to keep that love alive moving forward.

Perhaps this is why God in the Bible calls us over and over again to remember as well - it helps remind us of special times with Him and inspires us to keep our love for Him alive too!

Deuteronomy 8:2, 10 says "And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness...(10)...then you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you."

Not only does the Bible remind us of the need to remember. One of Ellen Whites' most famous statements brings out the importance of remembering also.

"We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history." Life Sketches, page 196.

As 2021 comes to a close let us remember the special ways God has led us as a church this year! And let it inspire us to draw closer to Him and each other in 2022!

The Joy in Giving - 9 December, 2021

As Christmas time approaches our minds often turn toward giving. Whether it's gifts for family or friends, food baskets for the less fortunate, or preparing to make those last minute donations before the tax year ends, we begin to think more carefully, more strategically, about the "to who", "how", and "when".

For the Christian, giving is not just confined to Christmas time. Rather it is part of our everyday life. We recognise that everything we own ultimately belongs to God (see Psalm 50:10) and He has called us to be wise stewards for Him, using our time, resources, and money, to help others and advance His work on the earth. David got it right when, after giving generously for the building of the Temple, he acknowledged "But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly as this? For all things come from You. And of Your own we have given You." 1 Chronicles 29:14.

This "covenant" way of living (recognising God as owner and we His stewards) sets us free from the gnawing stress and worry of feeling we are ultimately responsible for our own survival (see Matthew 6:25-34), and liberates us to do our best but ultimately rely on our Heavenly Fathers' provisions and providences.

The primary way we enter into this "covenant" way of living with God is through His tithes and offerings system. God calls us to return to Him the tithe (10% of our income/or profit if we are in business - Leviticus 27:30-32) which is exclusively used to support those who minister full-time for God (Numbers 18:21). In addition to tithe, God calls us to give free-will offerings to support His work in both the local and world-wide church. There is no set amount outlined in scripture for offerings but it is a good idea to dedicate a certain percentage of our income so the needs are consistently met (Malachi 3:8-12). (See below for ways you can return your tithes and offerings).

The main reason God invites us to enter into "covenant" with Him through our tithes and offerings however is for our benefit, not His (after all He owns it all anyway!). Firstly, God knows that man's heart is naturally selfish. Jesus said "Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses." Luke 12:15. Giving keeps our hearts free from the deadly trap of covetousness! Secondly, God wants us to receive the joy that comes through giving! 2 Corinthians 9:6,7 says "But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. (7) So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver!"

So have fun this Christmas season not only giving to others but to God too!

A Beautiful Balance - 1 December, 2021

Dear Church Family,

I trust your week is going well! As most of you will know by now, New Zealand will be leaving the Covid Alert Level system and moving into the new Traffic Light System this Friday. This means that the government's response to Covid can be more nimble depending on what's happening in the different regions etc. The Gisborne district will move into Red which means we will have to make some adjustments to our worship services.

On Sunday the Church Board voted that while under Red, the church would move into a small group model of doing church rather than meeting as a larger church body which would necessitate excluding those without the Vaccine Pass. When we move into Orange, the Church Board voted to have two worship services conducted at the same time in the Hall and main Church. Both groups will be linked via Facebook live.

Fortunately the Government is allowing mixed groups (those with a Vaccine Pass and those without a Vaccine Pass) to meet in groups of up to 25 people (including kids). This means that this Sabbath we will have four groups meeting. Two groups will meet at the Church (one in the Hall and one in the main Church auditorium). Tony and Pauline's group will be meeting as per usual and Allan and Anna will host a group in their home. We are confident having these four groups will give enough space/slots for every person, including visitors, to be able to worship.

Please Note: Though face masks are not mandated by the government (except for staff and volunteers) we are strongly encouraging their use and will plan to have masks available for those who need them. Record keeping (either by scanning the QR code or putting your name into the "ballot" box) is required and attendance will also be kept.

For my devotions this morning my attention was taken back to Daniel and his life in Babylon. While there in that strange and hostile land, God gave him wisdom to navigate the various challenges to his faith. While never yielding his principles or denying his faith, his humility and respect, even toward his captors, glorified God and eventually led to one of the greatest kings of the then-known-world giving his heart to God. In these trying times let us maintain that beautiful balance of putting God first in everything while being respectful and faithful citizens of our nation!

God's Antidote For Greed - 23 November, 2021

"Leo Tolstoy once wrote a story about a successful peasant farmer who was not satisfied with his lot. He wanted more of everything. One day he received a novel offer. For 1000 rubles, he could buy all the land he could walk around in a day. The only catch in the deal was that he had to be back at his starting point by sundown.

Early the next morning he started out walking at a fast pace. By midday he was very tired, but he kept going, covering more and more ground. Well into the afternoon he realized that his greed had taken him far from the starting point. He quickened his pace and as the sun began to sink low in the sky, he began to run, knowing that if he did not make it back by sundown the opportunity to become an even bigger landholder would be lost.

As the sun began to sink below the horizon he came within sight of the finish line. Gasping for breath, his heart pounding, he called upon every bit of strength left in his body and staggered across the line just before the sun disappeared. He immediately collapsed, blood streaming from his mouth. In a few minutes he was dead.

Afterwards, his servants dug a grave. It was not much over six feet long and three feet wide. The title of Tolstoy's story was: How Much Land Does a Man Need?" Bits and Pieces, November, 1991, (Source - Sermonsearch.com)

Greed - it lurks somewhere inside all of us! Perhaps it's greed for more land, more money, more food, more fame, more recognition, and the list could go on. Websters' dictionary defines greed as "having or showing a selfish desire for more than is needed." So how do we fight the tendency to be greedy? This Sabbath we begin a short two-part sermon series on God's antidote for greed. In this series we'll be looking at the pitfalls of both socialism and unbridled capitalism, and then to God's way nestled in both the Old and New Testament!    

Brightening the Lives of Others - 17 November, 2021

I read an inspirational article today about Pastor Ted Wilson, our General Conference President, and his recent meeting with President Duterte of the Philippines. Here is an excerpt from the article:

"Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte stood reverently as Seventh-day Adventist Church leader Ted N.C. Wilson prayed during a meeting at the president’s residence in Manila that had been expected to be brief but lasted 36 minutes as Duterte spoke about his faith and Wilson gave an informal Bible study on servant leadership.

Wilson, who led an Adventist delegation to Malacañan Palace, also expressed appreciation to Duterte for supporting religious liberty, promoting healthy lifestyle choices, and demonstrating the reconciliating ministry of Jesus in granting an amnesty to former rebels who have laid down their arms after hearing the gospel through Adventist World Radio.

Wilson and his wife, Nancy, are traveling for three weeks in the Philippines as part of their first international trip since COVID-19 struck in March 2020. A highlight of the trip was to be the baptism of 500 former rebels and their leader on Mindoro island on Sabbath, November 13. The former rebels decided to give their hearts to Jesus after listening to Adventist World Radio, and the government has taken the remarkable step of offering an amnesty to end a conflict that has lasted a half century and claimed 40,000 lives.

'I want to thank you for providing amnesty to the former rebels, who now have had their hearts changed by the powerful broadcasts of Adventist World Radio,” Wilson said at the meeting on the evening of November 10. The radio broadcasts “are touching their hearts and helping them to truly become productive citizens of the great country of the Philippines.'

With Duterte’s consent, Wilson opened a small black Bible and gave a Bible study on Micah 6:8, which says, 'He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?' (NKJV).

'This is the formula, your excellency, for those who want to help people, to lead,' he said.

Duterte, who initially spoke about his desire to defend children and the impoverished, appeared to grow reflective about spiritual matters after the Bible study, and he described his faith and prayer life.

'I am not into religious rituals … I do not believe in them,' he said. 'But I have a deep abiding faith.'

At Wilson’s suggestion, Duterte readily stood for a prayer that closed the meeting. The Philippine health minister and a government senator, who also were in attendance, stood as well. Afterward, Wilson presented Duterte with a Bible, Ellen White’s books The Great Controversy and Steps to Christ, and a pen engraved with the Adventist Church logo, which he told the president could be used to underline verses in the Bible.

Duterte’s reaction to the meeting surprised both members of the Adventist delegation and the presidential administration.

Bienvenido Tijano, an Adventist pastor who is well-acquainted with Duterte as Philippine’s ambassador to Papua New Guinea, expressed astonishment that the meeting had lasted longer than the five to 10 minutes scheduled for the courtesy call and that Wilson had been able to share such a spiritual message.

'I have never seen this kind of visit in which the president allows someone to have so much time and the opportunity to share such a message,' Tijano said.

He added that the meeting had made a positive impact on members of the presidential administration and that they had been impressed that Duterte was so attentive to Wilson’s words.

'The Holy Spirit was really there, working,' he said.

Duane McKey, president of Adventist World Radio, also marveled at Duterte’s response.

'The event was incredible, especially after I understood from President Duterte’s assistants that he usually allows people to talk for only five or 10 minutes or less,' he said. 'It was very spiritual, and he responded very well. … We were blessed and proud to be Seventh-day Adventists.'

During the meeting, Wilson told Duterte that his desire, and the desire of every Christian, is simply to share Jesus’ love. He likened Christians to the festive red poinsettia flowers that he noticed Duterte has placed around the presidential palace for the Christmas season.

'I must say, I appreciate the beautiful poinsettias in the palace,' Wilson said. 'They are really a beautiful touch that help brighten things. And really, that’s what Seventh-day Adventists and other Christians are all about: brightening the lives of people.'" ANN, Ted Wilson Prays for Philippine President, by Andrew McChesney, 13 November, 2021.

Spiritual Myopia - 10 November, 2021

Myopia, or "near-sightedness", is an eye condition in which close objects are seen clearly while far-away objects are blurry. Fortunately this common eye problem (which affects a whopping 40% of us) can be cured easily with glasses, contact lenses, or Lasik surgery. But did you know there is another Myopia that affects all of us? That's right - 100% of us! Its called Spiritual Myopia! It's the condition of not being able to look beyond ourselves. This condition can manifest itself in different ways. For some its a focus on their own goodness, while for others its a focus on their own badness! Regardless, the results of the two forms of Spiritual Myopia are the same - quick spiritual death, and if left untreated, ultimate eternal destruction.

People in the Bible were riddled with this form of Myopia too. Lucifer would be exhibit A. Unwilling to look beyond his beautiful self, he lost touch with his Creator and was thrown out of heaven and now awaits complete annihilation. Peter could be exhibit B. Invited to walk on water to Jesus, he momentarily looked away from Him, began focusing on the waves and his own weakness, and promptly began to sink into the billowing deep. Fortunately, a quick glance back to Jesus revealed an outstretched hand which brought immediate deliverance! Fortunately, no matter what form of spiritual myopia we struggle with Jesus has the remedy - or rather - Jesus is the remedy. Listen to Ellen White on the topic:

"We are not to look at ourselves. The more we dwell on our imperfections, the less strength we shall have to overcome them. Jesus says, 'Look unto me, and be ye saved.' It is not necessary for us to be ever stumbling and repenting, and writing bitter things against ourselves. It is our privilege to believe the promises of the word of God, and accept the blessings that Jesus loves to bestow, that our joy may be full. 

Put away all doubt. Dismiss your fears. Obtain the experience that Paul had when he exclaimed, 'I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.' Surrender everything to Christ, and let your life be hid with Christ in God. Then you will be a power for good. 

The Lord did not lock the reservoir of heaven after pouring his Spirit upon the early disciples. We also may receive of the fullness of his blessing. Heaven is full of the treasures of his grace, and those who come to God in faith may claim all that he has promised. 

I beseech you to keep reaching out after God, to keep drinking of the Fountain of living water. You may be as a tree planted by the rivers of water, whose leaf does not wither. You may be full of moisture, and be able to refresh others, and to give them grace and comfort." 

{ EGW in HM November 1, 1890, par. 34 }

So look away from yourself and focus on Jesus today! You and every one around you will be happy you did!

Tools in the Masters Hand - 3 November, 2021

A group of tools once came together for a meeting with Mr. Hammer presiding. Brother Screwdriver said, "Brother Hammer must go, because he is always making a loud noise, and hitting out at everything in sight!" Hammer said, "Brother Screwdriver then has to go, because you have to turn him around and around just to get him to do his job." Someone else said, "Brother Plane has to go too, because he's so superficial. He never goes deep." Plane said, "Brother Sandpaper has to go then, because he is always rubbing people the wrong way." Sandpaper spoke up, "Then Brother Saw must go, because he is so cutting and keeps leaving the fall out for everyone else to clean up!" Suddenly the Carpenter from Nazareth appeared and said, "I need all of you. We have a job to do. If you'll just put yourselves in my hands, I'll use you all in ways you could never imagine! " Hammer said, "Here am I, Lord, use me." Screwdriver said, "Here am I, Lord, use me." Plane said, "Here am I, Lord, use me." Sandpaper said, "Here am I, Lord, use me." Saw said, "Here am I, Lord, use me." So when each gave himself to the Carpenter from Nazareth He used each one of them to build a beautiful Sanctuary for God from which the message of God's love could be proclaimed to the world! After seeing what the Carpenter of Nazareth had done, each tool cried out "Look! We have become useful for the Master, prepared for every good work!" (2 Timothy 2:21).

Just like these tools, Jesus has brought us together here at the Gisborne church to build a Sanctuary from which to proclaim His message of love to the East Coast region. So no matter who we are, let us continue putting our gifts, talents, and resources into this good work until we hear from our master the words "Well done thou good and faithful servant!...Enter into the joy of thy Lord!" (Matthew 25:21)

A Healthy Focus - 19 October, 2021

Every day seems to bring new headlines about COVID-19, the vaccine, and government mandates. More and more these headlines are jumping off the page and becoming real issues in our own lives. Some of our members are facing government and/or employer-related "no-jab, no-job" mandates. Regardless of our views on COVID and the vaccine, this issue is touching all of us in one way or another. So how do we as a church respond to this challenge? Here are some thoughts:

1. Regardless of our views on COVID and the vaccine, lets assume the best of one-another and support each others' right to hold those sincerely held views. Speaking about the need to respect people's different convictions over the early church's days of fasting Paul wrote:

"One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. (6) He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks.; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks....(13) Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way." Romans 14:5-13.

2. Let's do all in our power to live healthfully! Seventh-day Adventists have been given great light in the form of the eight natural laws of health (NEW START), and natural remedies such as hydrotherapy, that can be a huge blessing to us and our community.

N utrition - A vegetarian diet filled with a variety of fruits, nuts, grains, and vegetables.

E xercise - Daily exercise of at least 30 min. if possible.

W ater - Drink 6 to 8 glasses per day.

S unlight - Spend time outside in the sunshine every day if possible. This will not only improve your mood but boost your vitamin D levels.

T emperance - Abstaining from harmful substances including alcohol, cigarettes, energy drinks, and drugs. Limiting the intake of sugar.

A ir - Allow fresh air to flow through your home. Spend time outside breathing deeply of the fresh air.

T rust in God - Tust God, do your best, then leave Him with the rest!

Additional Practices to Improve Your Immune System:

Regular Shower - After you have thoroughly warmed up, finish your shower with 30 seconds of cold. This will improve your circulation and boost your white blood cell count. (Don't worry - it gets easier with time!)

Contrast Showers - For a more intensive treatment to build your immune system or fight off a virus that you may already have, simply warm yourself up thoroughly in the shower, then turn to cold for 30 seconds. Repeat hot for 3 minutes then cold for 30 seconds an additional 2 or 3 times. Always end the treatment with 30 seconds of cold. The more extreme the temperature difference the more effective the treatment however be careful not to burn yourself or be sure to stop if you feel lightheaded.

3. Let's understand that as Christian's our hope and focus needs to transcend COVID. Our focus is still Christ and His mission of spreading the good news.

"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." John 16:33.


Becoming a Conduit for God's Grace - 12 October, 2021

One of my domestic duties lately has been to hook up a watering system for Molly's greenhouse. Not being one to do things half-heartedly, I set out to develop a system to be remembered! With the help of Cecil and his Digger, an elevated site at the back of the property was soon levelled, a 25,000 litre water tank set in place, a 6 by 2 wooden platform erected with a smaller water tank on top positioned at a strategic place nearer the greenhouse, a couple of hundred meters of Alkathene laid, and voila ("wallah"), the system had taken shape! Indeed - A water system for the Ages! There was just one problem - it didn't work! You see, before the water could even enter the first tank, the plumbing was wrong and water couldn't even leave the pipe. Fortunately, I think I have it fixed now but I'll keep you posted.

I wonder if this could be an appropriate parable of our lives sometimes? Outwardly we can look like we have it all together but inwardly nothing is happening. Instead of being life-giving conduits for God's grace and power to flow out to others, we can't even feel it flowing into us. While there may be different reasons for feeling "dry" in our spiritual lives, one thing that always helps to reinvigorate the "flow" is to make the decision to be a channel for God to bless others. Once we take the focus off ourselves and place it on others, God has an uncanny way of opening up the blockages in our lives.

Palestine has two inland seas. One is called the "Sea of Galilee", and is full of life and makes everything around it green. The second is called the "Dead Sea" and has no life at all, and all around its shores is only brown rock and sand. What makes the difference? The Sea of Galilee takes in the life-giving water from Mount Hermon in the north, then allows its water to flow out again to the Jordan river to the south. It takes and then it gives. The Dead Sea, on the other hand, only receives but never gives. And all its good for is tourists to take pictures of themselves bobbing on its surface.

People are the same. Some are like the Sea of Galilee who take the blessings of God so they can pass them on again. Others are like the Dead Sea and take, take, take, but never give. What kind of person are you? Perhaps more importantly, what kind of a person do you want to be? I believe it's time to become a person who not only receives from God but intentionally makes sure the blessings flow on to others!

Just the other day I was inspired to hear one of our local members' ways of letting the blessings flow. She has dedicated the back window of her car to telling others about Jesus. Everyone driving behind her gets a free Bible reading! Just a couple of weeks ago I was feeling the desire to let the blessings flow more in my life. So I asked God to give me a couple more Bible studies. In only a matter of days God had led me to three new people to study with! God really wants His grace to flow doesn't He.

So how about you? Are you allowing God to flow through you? Become a conduit today. You might be surprised to see how it even frees up your blockages!

Unlocking Heaven's Storehouse - 5 October, 2021

For my Pastor's Page this week I thought I would simply pass on a little thought-provoking challenge from Pr Dwight Nelson...

Bruce Wilkinson tells the story (perhaps it was a dream) about a Mr. Jones who was enjoying a personal tour of heaven. Eyes wide with wonder, he couldn’t get enough! But then he and his guide passed a large warehouse, which the guide ignored. Perplexed Mr. Jones asked why they weren’t stopping. “Oh, it’s nothing you’d be interested in.” “But yes I am interested—please show me what’s inside.”

The guide relents, prepares for the disappointment, and opens the door. Turns out “the enormous building is filled with row after row of shelves, floor to ceiling, each stacked neatly with white boxes tied in red ribbons.” Mr. Jones begins to walk the aisles and quickly notices each box has a name on it. “Is there a box here for me?” he eagerly asks. The guide reluctantly nods but before he can explain, Mr. Jones races toward the J section of the warehouse, quickly locating the box with his name on it.

Slipping off the ribbon and popping off the lid, Mr. Jones peers inside and lets out a deep sigh, as he recognizes the contents of the box. “Because there in Mr. Jones' white box are all the blessings God wanted to give to him while he was on earth . . . but Mr. Jones had never asked” (The Prayer of Jabez 25-27).

“You do not have because you do not ask God” (James 4:2).

Makes you wonder what is in your box, doesn’t it? What are the gifts we could have had, had we asked?...

Could it be Heaven is primed and eagerly waiting for us to plead with God for the saving of lost people we know? Might it be God and His angels are standing by, unwilling to force themselves on us, but thoroughly prepared to supernaturally intervene in the life of this campus and this congregation, if we would “but for the showers we plead” (to quote the familiar hymn).

Steps to Christ wonders: “Why should the sons and daughters of God be reluctant to pray, when prayer is the key in the hand of faith to unlock heaven's storehouse, where are treasured the boundless resources of Omnipotence?” (94-95). Quoted from Dwight Nelson's 22 September, 2021 Pastor's Blog, PMChurch.org.

So what do you think? Does God have some boxes in His storehouse for the Gisborne and East Coast area? I bet He does! Why don't you start praying for the area where God has "planted" you? And don't stop there - begin acting out your prayers by looking for ways to connect with the people right around you!

Escape to Higher Ground - 28 September, 2021

Tilly Smith was just another 10-year-old kid enjoying the beach while on holiday with her family, until an unthinkable chain of events began to unfold that would catapult her into headlines around the world. Little did she know as she began paddling in the waves on Maikhao beach in Phuket Thailand that Boxing Day morning, that a monster wave, one of the most destructive in history, was barrelling toward her just off shore. What's perhaps even more startling is that just two weeks before, Tilly completed a school assignment on Tsunami's in which she had learned the causes, the signs, and what to do. As Tilly walked along the sand that morning, she noticed the strange bubbling of the water, and the sudden receding of the waves off the beach. From what she had learned in her assignment, she realised a Tsunami was coming and quickly told her parents who immediately warned the almost 100 other people on the beach. By the time the massive Tsunami wave rolled in a few minutes later, all had fled to higher ground and not one person was left on the beach - all were saved!

What an incredible story! It illustrates to me the importance of preparation. I think the parallel to our spiritual lives is pretty obvious. We too, have a "Tsunami" rolling toward us at breakneck speed - its called the final events. We may not know the exact time or point of impact but as we see the signs we know it's time for ourselves and others to flee to higher ground. Where is that higher ground? It's in Jesus. Maybe it's time we spread the word! 

Spiritual Greenhouses - 25 September, 2021

Molly has a green thumb and just loves to garden. For quite some time its been her dream to have her own greenhouse, so after faithfully saving her pennies, she ordered a 8 meter by 3 meter kit-set. Over the past few weeks we have had fun together erecting the frame, reinforcing it with wood posts and railing (we live in a high wind zone), and just this morning, putting the reinforced anti-UV polyethylene cover over the top. What satisfaction to see what she has dreamed about actually coming to reality. But the hard work has only just begun! Now we have to fill it with soil, install the watering system, and actually plant the seedlings. Then there is the watering, weeding, harvesting, and the work goes on..

So why go to so much trouble to grow veggies when we could just run into town and go visit Pak-n-Save? Well, for one, its a whole lot cheaper, and two, what could taste better than home-grown veggies? But maybe there's a third reason too - the experience! In our modern society life can become so artificial and disconnected from reality that getting back to real life basics has got to be a good thing - right?! (BTW - if you haven't asked our Adventurers about their little garden over by the Life Centre be sure to. It seems we have some up-and-coming horticulturists in our midst!). 

It's the same in our spiritual lives. God wants us to reconnect to the basics. He doesn't want us to become overly reliant on someone else's experience but to experience Him for ourselves. This is why He gives us spiritual "greenhouses" in our lives where we can grow and flourish. Some spiritual greenhouses that come to mind include daily personal devotional time with God, small-group gatherings, and combined worship at church every Sabbath.

 If you are feeling disconnected from God and in need of getting back to basics, identify the "greenhouses" God has erected for you and begin to get back into them. Jesus said "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." John 15:5. 

What Kind of Trough are You? 14 September, 2021

Yesterday, I installed a water trough in one of Dad's hill paddocks. The paddock has a trough already but the sheep are too afraid to use it because of a heading dog that sits under a tree nearby. A couple of weeks ago the dog was gone and I noticed the sheep reluctantly making their way towards the trough to get a drink. It was scary for them because they thought the dog might appear at any moment. As soon as they took what they thought they needed they hastily made their retreat. Fortunately they now have a new trough where there are no threats and they can drink the cool, satisfying water in peace and quiet to their hearts content.

Like those sheep, have you ever been thirsty but too scared to drink? In John 7:37 and 38 Jesus says, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." If we are spiritually thirsty, we can come to Jesus and drink. He will always quench our thirst! But more than that - He will come inside and cause a river of living water to flow out of us to those around, making them thirsty and eager to drink as well! So where can these thirsty people go and find Jesus the living water? Fortunately Jesus is only ever one prayer away. But then Jesus leads these people to His water trough called the church. This is where His sheep gather together to drink and get refreshed.

Unfortunately, at times, church can be like that trough under the tree - a scary and threatening place where dangers lurk. Dangers come in all shapes and sizes but here are a few - gossip, judgmental attitudes, erroneous teaching, un-forgiveness, social clicks, abusive attitudes, and the list could go on. Many people have drunk from this trough and they don't want to come back - it's too threatening and painful. Others have never been to this trough under the tree but have been to other troughs that were similar and can't face going again.

Fortunately, church can be another kind of trough. It can be a trough that's out from the shadows and in the Son-light. It can be a place of love, forgiveness, healing, and acceptance - a safe place where Jesus is the focus and His grace flows - not only from heaven downward - but outward, between one another. People look forward to coming to this kind of trough and they invite their friends to come and experience it too. At this trough we are challenged to let go of the past and embrace a bright future where Jesus becomes all and all.

So what kind of trough do you want to drink from? What kind of trough would you like your friends to drink from? Perhaps the more important question we need to ask ourselves is "what kind of trough do I want to be?"

The Value of You - September 7, 2021

You are a very complex creature - did you know that? Take your DNA for example. You have 92 strands of it in each of your approximate 100 trillion cells. If you unraveled one of your cell's DNA it would be 2 metres long. If you were feeling really energetic and unraveled all of your cell's DNA and tied them end to end, your DNA would reach to the sun and back over 600 times. In these over 9 quadrillion strands of DNA is contained the genetic code that makes you human. While we share 99.9% of our DNA with the rest of the human family, a whopping 0.01% is made up of variants that makes you uniquely you! While that may not sound a lot that is still three million differences from your neighbour. These variants give some of us red hair instead of brown, blue eyes instead of green, makes us tall rather than short, and gives each of us a unique set of fingerprints. 

Thankfully we are not just cold, biological products of our DNA, but masterpieces knit together by a loving Creator. David said "For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvellous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well." Psalm 139:13 and 14. Commenting on our value through the parable of the lost sheep, Ellen White says, "In the parable the shepherd goes out to search for one sheep - the very least that can be numbered. So if there had been but one lost soul, Christ would have died for that one." Christ Object Lessons, 187. Imagine that! If you were the only person who wondered away, Jesus would have given up His life for you! That's valuable!

So how should we live knowing that we are masterpieces and of infinite value? Here are some things that come to mind:

Let's value each other and treat each other with the utmost respect. Cherish the time you have with another person, knowing that Jesus would have left Heaven for Earth to save them and spend time with them. Also, never underestimate the value of your own testimony. No one can tell "the Old Old Story" in just the way you can. Jesus wants people to hear the good news from you because you have a unique perspective on God's love that no one on the planet has. And remember to value yourself! The reason why God made you was because He wanted you! He didn't need another Thomas, John, Lisa, or Susan (you insert the name) other wise He would have cloned them. Rather He needed a "you" so that's what He made. So value yourself! Lastly, be careful with yourself. Because of sin we are all damaged. But God is knitting us back together again to something even more precious than what we would have been if we had never sinned. Cooperate with Him and watch Him develop you into your full potential! 

The Self-Sacrificing Lamb - 31 August, 2021

Lately, I've been having flashbacks of when our kids were young (all good of course). You see, we have two new babies in our household - at least they think they are - and their names are Bonnie and Bella! But they're not people - they're sheep - Well, lambs to be exact. So, every four hours, Molly and I take turns going to the fridge, shaking up the milk, pouring it into the bottle, boiling up some water, pouring that into a container, plopping the bottle in, and then waiting (and waiting...and waiting) for it to heat up to just the right temperature to satisfy their picky (I mean precious) little appetites! And then, four hours later, it starts all over again. Oh, the joy!

One thing I know about lambs is that they are pretty helpless - you have to do everything for them. Maybe that's why it's so intriguing that Jesus took the "lamb" as a symbol for Himself. So was He really as helpless as a lamb? Well, yes and no. Yes, in the sense that He willingly laid aside His divine attributes and really did become a man. What a gargantuan, humongous, mammoth, colossal...(still can't come up with the word)...downward step. And, no, in the sense that He was still fully God (don't try too hard to understand it all - it might blow your circuitry) and could have exercised His divinity at any moment if He really wanted to.

So why would Jesus willingly place Himself in such a weak and vulnerable position? Because He knew He needed to place Himself right where we were in order to redeem us right where we were - knowing full well the ramifications of doing so would be catastrophic to Himself. Consider some of the ramifications here: "We esteem Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted." Isaiah 53:4; "The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all." Isaiah 53:6; "He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth" Isaiah 53:7; "He was led as a lamb to the slaughter" Isaiah 53:7; "As a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth." Isaiah 53:7; "For the transgression of My people He was stricken." Isaiah 53:8; and "He poured out His soul unto death." Isaiah 53:12. It's too much to fully comprehend isn't it? No wonder Isaiah warned his readers at the beginning of the same chapter "Who has believed our report?"

But its in this almost unbelievable truth of Jesus perceived weakness, that we see revealed the fullness of His strength! Perhaps Revelation 5 describes it best. When John begins to despair that no one in the Universe is worthy (or strong enough) to open the sealed scroll, he hears one of the Elders say to him: "Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals." (Rev. 5:5). "Phew" John thinks to himself, "there is someone strong enough! And he's as strong as a Lion and as mighty as a king!" And, then, when he turns around, full of expectation, what does he see? "And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth. (7) Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. (8) Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. (9) And they sang a new song, saying: 'You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood." (Rev. 5:6-9).

Wow - In Jesus greatest apparent weakness, was His greatest strength! In the self-sacrificing Lamb was revealed the all-powerful, strength of God - His love!

Perhaps the next time I feed Bonnie and Bella, I'll turn my attention off the inconvenience of preparing the milk, and be thankful for the reminder of how powerful supposed weakness really can be!

The Fog of War - 24 August, 2021

They call it "the fog of war". It's the dizzying confusion troops experience when they first go into war and engage the enemy. When the bullets start flying and bombs begin exploding, no one really knows what's happening - whose winning, whose losing, nor how long it will last. It's not until the "dust settles" that the soldiers actually comprehend what has happened and how they did. 

For the past year and a half this planet has been enshrouded, it seems, in the "fog of war." This war has not been against some foreign enemy but against a little virus called Covid -19. For the first several months when we engaged the enemy there were a lot of unknowns. Could it be treated by this medicine or should we use that medicine? Was it better to lock down or let the virus run its course til herd immunity kicked in? Where did it come from - bats or a lab? Everyone you talked to seemed to have a different opinion. Frankly, most of us were just guessing and it seems the authorities were too. Only now is the dust beginning to settle, the fog lift, and the landscape emerge into view. And even now, with our latest lockdown, there are still many unknowns.

So how have you been doing navigating this "fog of war"? Has flicking through the conflicting TV channels, scrolling the endless YouTube videos, and browsing the numerous Facebook comments left you feeling a little shell-shocked? If I am honest I have felt a little dazed at times. Just when I thought I had Covid all sussed out, another video would came along and pull the proverbial rug out from under me, making me feel like I was back at square one again! 

If you have felt the above, welcome to the human family! Sometimes things aren't as clear as we would like. Fortunately God is bigger than Covid 19 and He's bigger than any struggle or war zone that may come our way. Jehoshaphat, the Judean king of 2 Chronicles 20, knew this full well. As the clouds of war were gathering on his horizon, he chose to look away from the gathering storm and look to God. He said "O our God, will You not judge them? For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You." 2 Chronicles 20:12. As Jehoshaphat looked to God, it brought calm to His soul and clarity to his thinking. His trust in God strengthened him to remember that the battle was not his but God's. His trust in God also gave his ears the ability to hear a clear word from above stating "'You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the LORD, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!' Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the LORD is with you." 2 Chronicles 20:17. And in that power, he engaged the enemy, not in the strength of his own army, but with songs of praise from the choir for a battle that had already been won.

As we face another lockdown - and all the uncertainty that goes with it - I want to remind you of the secret to navigating the "fog of war": First, turn your eyes away from yourself and place them firmly on God who is more than able to bring you through. Second, remember His mighty promises of deliverance. And third, show up for battle, not in your own strength, but in His strength, praising Him for the battle that is already won!  

 

The Tipping Point - 10 August, 2021

A tipping point is defined as a small change that tips the balance leading to a massive change! Sometimes these tipping points can lead to good changes and at other times tipping points can lead to catastrophic change. An example of a catastrophic tipping point would be the moment the storm surge, generated by Hurricane Katrina, overflowed the flood banks of New Orleans and inundated the city killing around 3000 people. An example of a positive tipping point came around a decade after Tarana Burke, a social activist, began using the phrase "Me Too" on the Myspace social network to show empathy to women who had suffered sexual abuse. The tipping point came in 2017 when actress Melissa Milano tweeted an invitation for other women who had suffered sexual abuse to respond to her message with a "Me Too". The tweet went viral and began a world-wide movement calling for accountability of those who had perpetrated sexual abuse. Hollywood, large corporations, and government agencies have been shaken as a result and several powerful figures have been criminally charged and jailed.

American biologist and economic researcher Chris Martenson describes a similar phenomenon as "Compounding Geometric Progression" (which we could simply describe as the "law of the exponential"). Martenson illustrates this dramatic law in the following way: Imagine the Boston baseball stadium, Fenway Park, has been made watertight. Next, imagine an eye-dropper dropping one drop of water on the pitcher's mound. Now imagine that water doubling in quantity every minute. How long would it take to fill the stadium? Maybe one month, a week, or perhaps a day? The answer is 49 minutes! Amazingly, after 44 minutes the stadium is still only 10% full of water, but within the next 5 minutes, the stadium goes from 10% to completely full and overflowing! Tipping points and the "law of the exponential" brings sudden and massive change!

So what implications do these seemingly abstract phenomena have for us? I would like to suggest that the Bible predicts both a tipping point and the "law of the exponential" at the end of time. In Matthew 24:8 Jesus describes the signs of the second coming of Christ and end of the world as "sorrows" (which, in the original language, literally mean "birth pains"). Every women who has given birth can tell you that the nine months leading up to the birth can seem like an eternity. Will the baby ever come? But then suddenly the birth pains arrive and they increase in both intensity and frequency and begin a cascading of events (whether the mother is ready or not) that only end in the delivery of the baby! Likewise, the second coming and end of time will happen at the conclusion of events that will suddenly increase in intensity and severity. 1 Thessalonians 5:3 uses the same metaphor when it says: "For when they say, 'Peace and safety!' then sudden destruction comes upon them as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape."

Interestingly, Ellen White describes a similar scenario: "We are living in the time of the end. The fast-fulfilling signs of the times declare that the coming of Christ is near at hand. The days in which we live are solemn and important. The Spirit of God is gradually but surely being withdrawn from the earth. Plagues and judgments are already falling upon the despisers of the grace of God. The calamities by land and sea, the unsettled state of society, the alarms of war, are portentous. They forecast approaching events of the greatest magnitude. The agencies of evil are combining their forces and consolidating. They are strengthening for the last great crisis. Great changes are soon to take place in our world, and the final movements will be rapid ones." Counsels for the Church, p. 37.

So when will we hit the tipping point and enter the "final events"? Only God knows but it doesn't seem far away. More importantly - how should we prepare ourselves for them? Here are a couple of suggestions: Firstly, Jesus said "Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming." Matthew 24:42. Jesus wants us to watch for the signs and prepare now. Secondly, learn Psalm 91. This beautiful Psalm is geared especially for people living in times of trouble. Its relevant, inspiring and comforting!

So let's not worry about what lies ahead of us but let's prepare! Let's learn now how to keep our eyes on Jesus because He is the only one who can lead us safely home!