So last night I decided after a meeting to go and do a little grocery shopping and some banking. On the way there, I made a critical decision, though at the time I made it I had no idea just how important it would be. It was a simple enough choice, turn the steering wheel right and go shopping or left and go to the bank first. When I arrived at the bank, I decided to answer a couple of text messages before heading in. I went in and did my banking and just as I finished a woman came into the bank. When she opened the door, she was mumbling and muttering under her breath that she really did not want to do the bit of banking she needed to do. She was obviously distraught, and she looked like she was exhausted and had not slept for ages and I don’t think she knew I had heard what she said on her way into the bank. While I stood there waiting for my receipt to print she came up to me and asked me "Do you sometimes hate banking?” However, before I could answer she said she really did not want to take money from her account and give it to her ungrateful son. She proceeded to pour out her story of woe and how her son had squandered a huge amount of money his father had given him and now was in need of a hand out. In addition, not only was her son giving her grief but now her 16 year old daughter was not listening to her and instead fighting her at every turn. She finished by saying that she has prayed over and over and over for her children to the Lord, so she said, "I guess I just have to trust he will take care of them.” This conversation took place standing in the bank in front of the bank machine and lasted about 5 or 6 minutes and no one came into the bank, we had it to ourselves. It was as if she just needed to unburden herself and she just needed someone to listen to her and not talk back or storm away or offer platitudes. I stood there listening. Then I asked her if I could pray for her. Her eye welled up with tears immediately. I bowed my head and began to pray blessings, grace, and peace and love over her and her family. As I prayed, she stood there weeping sniffling and shaking. When I had finished I asked her if she would like a simple hug and bit of reassurance that tomorrow is a new day and that she just had to finish this one and get some rest. She looked up at me and said, "You know it seems that I am always the one doing the praying. It has been so good to be the one prayed for." Thank you she said as I turned and headed out of the bank. I love these kinds of encounters with people. Every once in a while I am blessed by the Lord just to do a simple act of kindness like this for another. A listen; A prayer; A tear. Thanks Lord for using me to bless this woman in your name.
Friday, September 18, 2015
Wednesday, September 02, 2015
Father's Day is coming up and I been thinking about influence today. Specifically, influence on our spouses and children. I have come to the following conclusion based on the words of Paul the Apostle in 1 Corinthians 11:1 “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” Husbands turn to your wives and say to them, "follow me as I follow Christ." Wives turn to your husbands and say "follow me as I follow Christ." If you do this, your children will follow along without even asking them to do so, it's like kids are designed to do so. I believe the best way to influence our children for the Gospel and for living out the way of faith is to set before them a broken yet grace filled and forgiven life. A life that is determined to continually set an example of what Christ-like love looks like. We need to ask ourselves and answer honestly, "How do we treat each other as spouses?" Do we show love by being accepting, respectful, speaking the truth in love, forgiving and asking for forgiveness and verbalising these traits in front of our kids? Kids are imitators. I remember trying to walk just like my dad did. I remember playing sport just like my dad did. I remember my mum practicing for hours just to play a few songs in the upcoming Sunday service and as a result I would prepare well anytime I did any serving in the church. I remember the ride home after church and listening to my mum talk about her Sunday school class with the teens and thinking I want to be just like her when I grow up. I remember listening to my dad give wise godly council to people who showed up in our house from time to time looking for help and thinking to myself, I want to be just like my dad! I look back now and see in so many ways how my life was shaped by my parents and how without even noticing what I was doing I was simply imitating them in how I lived my life. Paul writes a little bit earlier before in 1 Corinthians 4:16 "Therefore I urge you to imitate me." Kids are master imitators... they parrot what they see, the act out what they are shown, they verbalise what they hear and they internalise attitudes. They are imitators. So let's be conscience of this vital truth as it relates to our marriages and families. God is our helper. He wants us to imitate Christ even more than we do and so has given us His precious Holy Spirit to enable us to do so... God bless us people as we seek to raise Godly, faithful and healthy children in the Lord. Enjoy the journey
Thursday, January 16, 2014
We’ve just celebrated our anniversary of living in New Zealand for 7 years. Early on in our relationship, Cheryl and I talked and dreamt of taking our (some day) family on a ministry adventure overseas. It was not always something we talked about often but it did come up from time to time. Then in 2006 we decided that the prompting of the Lord was for us to leave the church we had started in Peachland B.C. and launch out into a new adventure. We eventually found a place that had been praying for a pastor to come for several years. A little church called the International Christian Centre in Auckland New Zealand. Sadly, through a series of unfortunate events, we ended up closing the doors in the fifth year of our leadership. This was one of the unhappiest moments of my pastoral career. While going through this difficult time I became aware that I was suffering from a mild depression. It was also during this time that I reengaged some old and seriously bad eating habits and experienced significant weight gain which only compounded things. I was very perplexed as to the reasons why God had flown us all the way to New Zealand just to shut down a church. Surely He could have used someone local and spared us the experience and the expense. However, not everything was bad and my family for the most part was flourishing. Cheryl was blossoming in her renewed career as a public school teacher and all of our daughters had found themselves some great friends. Our two eldest daughters found a couple of great fellas, and although at times they have all missed their homeland they have all very much embraced their new country as their own. When I looked at how God was moving and encouraging and blessing the rest of my family I knew we had made the right choice. But still a profound sense of bewilderment was a constant companion for me. Then I came across a verse that was familiar to me but this time it was alive and leapt off the page at me. 2 Corinthians 4:8 “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing.” It was the words “perplexed, but not despairing” that rang true in my heart and mind. I was definitely perplexed. A stack of “why” questions had formed on the desktop of my mind. Nothing had made any sense. Why a church full of wonderful people eventually closed its doors was near the top of that stack. I decided that if the great apostle Paul was perplexed then why couldn’t I? The difference between him and me was I was in despair! I had allowed my own personal value and sense of worth to be attached to the success (or failure) of this little church. So I confessed my lack of faith in a sovereign all-knowing, all-powerful and gracious God and eventually my spirit began to move out of despair. God knows exactly what he is doing and never has nor ever will make a mistake. We on the other hand, are full of doubts, worries, fears and weaknesses and this limits our ability to know exactly what is going on. This forces the issue of trust. Do I or do I not trust him? He knows the end from the beginning, and he rises up some and puts others down. Like Paul was perplexed so too am I. Now I can also say like Paul was I am not in despair. A new and deep calmness come over me. A peace that passed my human understanding was mine and I liked it! I have since been called to pastor a Chinese Alliance Church here in Auckland and I am having a really good experience with this great group of people. There are still plenty of perplexities, I am sure there will be more to come and I am also sure that there will be very few if any answers until the day we meet Jesus. In the meantime, I am focused on simply being obedient and faithful to the ministry that God has placed me in. Loving God and loving the people he has placed in my life. Seeking to lead, encourage, support, and mentor people like a priest of the living God should do. To God be the glory, great things he has done. Wonder what the next 7 years will be like?
Monday, January 13, 2014
My office was particularly stuffy and warm last Friday afternoon. I had read and reread the same page about three times and couldn’t concentrate so decided at about 3pm I had enough. I slipped on my sandals and headed outside for a walk around Ben Lomond Crescent. I’ve measured it before and it is pretty close to exactly one kilometer from the front door of our church building all the way around the crescent and back to the front door. It makes for a relaxing little afternoon walk, it gets the blood circulating and the lungs working a bit harder, and often provides a chance to pray or think about some issue I’m working on as I stroll along. Back in Canada (7 years ago we moved to New Zealand this weekend) in the little town I pastored in I would do the same thing. Many times I would wander into my friend Tim’s Hardware store and we would chat about whatever, usually have a good laugh or two, before I would head back to my office. Frequently I would run into somebody who needed to chat or go for a coffee or set up a time to get together. However, here in Auckland, this is a much rarer occasion. Friday as I left the building a thought went through my mind wondering if I will see anyone or even speak to anyone on my walk around the block. As I strolled along within about 3 or 4 minutes I met an East Indian man who asked me for the time, and wondered out loud to me where the closest bus stop was so he could catch it into the Highland Park Shopping Centre. I gave him my best guess as to where the nearest bus stop was and he was very grateful for the assistance and we parted ways. I had taken no more than a few steps away when I heard him call out to me, “would you like to walk with me?” However, since we were going in opposite directions I thanked him for his kindness and continued on my way. As I walked away I pondered the man’s invitation to walk with him. It was a sincere request to walk together even though we were perfect strangers. It was so unexpected that it caught me off guard and now I wish I would have just turned around and walked along the way with him discovering who he was and perhaps even getting an opportunity to share my faith. The bible does say to be ready or prepared to share the gospel at all times. I felt I had disobeyed the Lord by just continuing on my walk without taking up the offer to walk with this man. I whispered a prayer of repentance to the Lord and quickened my pace hoping to catch him at the top of the crescent but when I arrived there, there was no sign of him anywhere. How often does it happen to us that God brings people across our pathway that he wants us to speak to or listen to? As a Christian shouldn’t I have been more inclined to ask him to walk with me and I would show him which way to go? My little encounter with this man revealed to me a spiritual sluggishness in my response to him. I confessed this to my Lord and thanked Him for gently showing me my need to wake up and be more in tune with what He was doing around me. Like Jesus who said in John 5:17 “My Father is always working, and so am I.”, I need to be better prepared to minister or listen or pray or show kindness or speak the Gospel in a much more ready fashion. Help me Lord be more like you in this way. Amen.
Monday, January 06, 2014
Recently a fellow worker in the Lord gave me a lovely devotional gift of a Lectionary for the Anglican Church of New Zealand and Polynesia. Basically it is a prescribed set of daily readings from scripture along with other church calendar events for the year 2014. I’ve been enjoying the mixture of New and Old Testament passages that are set out often carrying some sort of thematic way of reading through the scriptures. Today I was informed for the first time, that I can remember anyway, that the 6th of January is set aside as a “principle feast that should not be displaced by any other celebration.” The feast is called “The Epiphany” of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the festival in the Western Church Calendar that is based upon the visitation of the magi from the east to the baby Jesus. In essence, it is the moment in time when Jesus, the Son of God, is presented to people other than Mary and Joseph, as a human person. It is the revelation, the epiphany, of God in human flesh on earth. Epiphany also marks the end of the Christmas Season, or the 12 Days of Christmas that began at the end of Christmas Eve, 24 December. Since the early days of Christianity, Biblical scholars and theologians have offered varying interpretations of the meaning and significance of the gold, frankincense and myrrh that the magi presented to Jesus, according to the Gospel of Matthew (2:11). These valuable items were standard and quite expensive gifts given to honour a king or deity in the ancient world: gold as precious metal, frankincense as perfume or incense, and myrrh as anointing oil. It was these gifts that were used to symbolise as a token from the wise men their hearts of worship for Jesus as a divine king. Sadly these same gifts may have in part triggered the jealous rage of King Herod that lead to the order to kill all the boys in Bethlehem 2 years of age and under in an effort to kill off his competition for the throne. Jesus had such an effect on people even as a baby. People either worshipped him as God or hated him and tried to destroy him. Not much has changed even to this day. Today I was blessed to celebrate this festive occasion with my wife Cheryl and our daughter Danae as we made our way to a little slice of Canada in Auckland known as Al’s Deli. We enjoyed a plate of poutine and then a “moose ear” aka “elephant ear” aka “beaver tail” depending on the part of Canada you eat it in. Yummy foods that for the most part is terrible for you to eat but hey, why not cast off restraint once in a while especially on such a momentous occasion. Gotta love Epiphany feasts! lol
My wife and I decided that it would be the perfect time to sneak away for a 10 Day Christmas cruise around New Zealand and then across the ditch to Sydney. In Sydney we spent the day enjoying all the sights and sounds of thousands upon thousands of people gathering there to see the main sights like the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Most where making plans to stick around and see the world renowned Sydney fireworks on New Year’s Eve but we had plans to get back to Auckland and take in a nice quite turn of the calendar. All our children were spread around the globe during the holiday season, Mackenzie back in Canada enjoying family and friends and some really really snowy cold weather. Paige is in the UK with her boyfriend Alex’s family, enjoying the ancient world around them as well as a few sporting events. Danae was with her fiancée and his family in the hot climate of Brisbane and eating the wonderful Indian cuisine that is part of the Moodley heritage. That left just Cheryl and I and it was the perfect window of opportunity to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary in style and so we climbed aboard the Sun Princess for 10 day of pampering and some much needed R&R in cruise ship style. And what a style that is!
From the moment we stepped on board we were surrounded by friendly faces welcoming us and making us feel like we were the most important people on the planet. They were not just friendly and welcoming but they were helpful and courteous and keenly interested in what we needed as passengers. Each person on board had a specific area of concern. The one who looked after our room would visit it up to 3 times a day to “freshen” it up and sometime in the afternoon he would go in and put little chocolates on our pillows just to make us feel special. The stewards in the coffee shop, on each part of the deck and especially in the main cafeteria were constantly coming by to refresh our ice water cups or coffee cups or remove the dirtied dishes or inquiring if they could bring us something we wanted. All with a gracious smile and an easy going manner and treating us like we were the only people they were serving the whole time. They remembered our names, they remembered our preferences, and they even sang happy birthday to those around us who celebrating that special occasion on board. The ship was also very festive compete with all the Christmas season lights, balls, trees, wreaths, music that played all the familiar tunes that surround the joyous season, and several opportunities to gather to sing Christmas carols, hear a Christmas message, and rejoice that a saviour had been born to us all.
I started to wonder about the similarities between cruise ships and fellowships. Without going overboard on the comparison I wondered if perhaps churches could learn a few things from cruises. Friendly, eager to serve, each one playing their part, all seeking the very best for those around them and ready at a moments notice to show care and concern for anyone who needed it. Music and a joyful celebratory atmosphere enveloped the whole place lifting spirits and helping us enter into the experience. Everything was done for a worthy cause. After all isn't that what the Apostle Paul recommended in Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, and also in 1 John 4:11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another and finally in Gal 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. Yes, I believe we all need to pray, Lord make our Churches like cruise ships! Amen.