Monday, December 31, 2007
It is a strange thought that in a couple of weeks that I will have been here in NZ for over two years. Much has changed in the last year and there is much to be thankful for: the work on campus has grown, New Zealand feels much more like home, Anna and I became a couple (be it a long distance couple), and I have again gotten to visit family and friends back in the UK. It has not always been straight forward but at the moment nothing negative is coming to mind at the moment. Having read another friends blog I am reminded that an easy life is far from what Christians are guaranteed. All the things that I am grateful for are from His grace and not things that I have earned, and this has served to increase my gratitude to Him.
Another friend had blogged about his favourite books of the year. I have read a few good books (if I was to do eight I have to confess that would probably have to include every book I have read in the last year!) but I decided to blog about something that stuck with me from earlier in the year.
It was part of the preaching course that I studied earlier in the year. An article we read explained how as preachers the temptation can be to preach to the actions/fruits of sin that we see in peoples lives. But if you just cut the fruit off it tends to grow back. What we need to do is preach to the roots that cause the actions/attitudes to grow in peoples lives. This is how the fruit is stopped from regrowing. By stopping things at the root.
An example of this is how as we can say that sex is good but only within marriage because God has said so in the bible. And that is by no means wrong, because that is what the bible says, but it is not a full reason as to why sex is good but only within marriage. When faced by temptation to sexual sin it is not always easy (though it should be) to say "the bible says that I shouldn't do this outside if marriage so I won't". Our hearts have been conditioned by various influences to not trust God. We need to address what is going on in our hearts that is causing us to doubt God.
The other danger of preaching to fruits is that of legalism. "Don't do this because God says you shouldn't" can come across as teaching people to behave in a certain way (and to make it worse people sometimes leave with the impression that this is what makes us acceptable to God). Our intention should be to see lives transformed. I don't know about you but I haven't been able to simply behave myself out of sin as yet.
For me personally it has changed how I engage with sin in my own life. No longer "I shouldn't do this" but more "I shouldn't be like this so why am I? What particular lie am I believing in my heart that is causing me to do this?".
There you go. My end of year reflection. Happy New Year. Maybe see you around on one side of the globe or another.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
We had a really nice time. We had an early Christmas with my family on the 25th November (at least the date was right). We had a lovely day; all my family could be there which was a joy. All my nephews and nieces took a real shine to Anna with the girls prefering her over me at points! My mum had done all her Christmas baking so that it was ready for when I was there. We put up the Christmas tree and had Christmas dinner. My mum made all my favourite food (she pretty much did that for every meal we were there) for Christmas. We exchanged gifts from Anna and I to everyone else and everyone else to us. It really was like the real day and that meant so much to me. I miss my family a great deal but they made it a wonderful day and I really can't thank them enough or explain how much I enjoyed it. It was a joy, Thank you!
From there we headed on to Milton Keynes. Family are very important to both us so it was great to be able to get to know Anna's family better. We had a great time with them all and they made me feel really welcome. It was lovely to be around for Anna's nieces dedication and Anna's commissioning service. For the commissioning part of the servcie the church leaders gave a really helpful explanation of how Anna was remaining part of their church family and they were sending Anna out from them to serve in New Zealand not packing her off and forgetting about her. That was combined with one of the best explanations of the importance of behind the scenes type service in Christian work that I have heard in a long time.
Sadly the trip was over all too quickly and it was time for me to head back to NZ and for Anna to get on with final preparations for moving out to NZ and Christmas with her family.
The picture is of my youngest niece. The only Christmassy picture I have as I spent most of my time playing with a video camera rather than taking pictures. I'll play with the movie footage soon!
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Of late I have become more and more aware of the fact that we are all in this together. Due to recent changes at the TSCF office (those who know me please don't laugh) I have been appointed acting finance administrator. I have had a lot to learn fairly quickly. I am very thankful for the way that people in the office have been patient with me and have picked up things that haven't been able to get to.
Because of picking up more responsibilities in the office I have not been as actively involved on campus as I would like. But because there is a team of us working in Wellington the other members of the team picked up all the things that I could no longer deliver on. I am very thankful for their understanding and patience too.
It has also helped me learn a little more about my control freak tendencies. Normally I would freak out about other people doing my jobs. But reaching the point where I couldn't do all that I wanted to forced me to let go. I am rebuked by how it has taken me getting to the point that I would let go of things. Seems obvious with hindsight.
I've since heard a friend preaching on Ephesians 4 and unity in the body in Christ. I think I now grasp that better than I did before. We are all in this together and we are most glorifying to God when we work together as a team. Being a control freak and needing to do things myself is sinful. I feel I have more to learn in this area.
But to end on a lighter note...
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
But my discovery for the evening was a Kiwi band called Supergroove. They were a seven piece band (including saxophone trumpet and harmonica). Apperently they split up about 6 or 7 years ago but have reformed for this tour with Crowded House. Supergroove were just so much fun to watch. You could tell that they were having fun too. Crowded House showed themselves to be a band who no what they are about and now how to perform and were great. But Supergroove were just more fund. From to rap to rock to rhythm and blues. They were great.
Click here to listen to an extract of one of my favourite tracks on iTunes (you made need to switch to the NZ site) called "Can't get enough".
Sunday, September 30, 2007
I also did the usual run around the country thing catching up with friends and supporters which was great fun if a little tiring (I fear I am getting old! It didn't used to be as tiring travelling).
Anna and I also did the whole meeting each others family and friends thing. Anna did amazingly as she met literally my entire family (which is not small) at the ruby wedding and wasn't fazed by the experience. It was great for me to finally meet Anna's family and I am looking forward to getting to spend some more time with them.
The only downside was that I forgot again (I seem to forget every time really, see previous posts) that I find it difficult spending a small amount of time with people I care about deeply and then having to leave again. Everyone was doing well but the reality of life as we all now is that it is not always straight forward. And I still find it hard not being there any more and not being able to help. Anna reminded me that I can pray and that is more than doing something. I know that is true and that God is in control but I don't always live as if I believe this. I feel a little rebuked that I am being so slow to learn this lesson.
The surprise with this trip was that I felt foreign. It felt odd going shopping in Tesco rather than New World. It felt odd being in the UK. That is not a bad thing and I guess I should have expected it sooner or later but I hadn't really thought about it.
I now have a permanent returning residents visa. I can now come and go from New Zealand for the rest of my life (providing I don't break any laws I guess).
I now really live in New Zealand. For how long who knows, but for now I live here.
Monday, August 20, 2007
Sunday, July 15, 2007
The team from UCCF's involvement has reminded me of how people from outside a context are able to see things from a different perspective and more importantly spur on and encourage those within the context. It has shown me again how people from within a context are more open to talking to people from outside the context. For us that means that kiwi's can be more open to talking about Jesus with those from outside New Zealand (but this does not excuse kiwi's from talking to kiwi's) which is something I need to think about some more.
The week itself was hugely encouraging! It has been a joy to see and be involved as Christian students at Vic and from UCCF come together and studied the bible everyday and served side by side in the work of spreading the good news about Jesus.
One of the things we did was a survey among students based upon the question "If you could ask God one question what would it be and why would you ask it?". It was a real surprise to me how open and honest people were, even though they were talking to complete strangers.
I have read many articles that say that the people today are different to the people of yesterday. That postmoderns have different questions to those that were previously being asked and that we need to change the way we do evangelism as a result.
Are today's students really all that different? Based upon the survey we did last week they are still asking the same sorts of questions: why does God allow suffering, hasn't science disproved God? Why does God hate people who are homosexual?
But yet I wonder if they are looking for a fuller answer. They want a reasoned answer to their question but might it be helped if connected with experience/story? One of my reflections of the past week (which may seem obvious) is that we need to hear Peter's call to "give a reason for the hope that we have" but we also need to be able to tell stories (or testimonies which is the other word that Christians sometimes use instead of the word "story": when I use the word story I don't mean fiction), particularly our own story, in a way that is firmly connected to illustrating/applying the truth.
The week has also been a rebuke for me. I have to be honest in that I did not think that surveying would work. I thought that no one would be interested. But many of them were. It may sound obvious but is has reminded me that, though it may not always be as visible on the surface (as I would prefer!), God is at work at Victoria university.
I am also thinking through how I can use questions more effectively in evangelism, someone has recommended a book called Questioning Evangelism by Randy Newman which I will try and get hold of a copy of.
I am thankful to God and to the team and for all involved last week for all that was done and for all we have learnt together. One of the joys of being involved in IFES (both TSCF and UCCF are founder members of IFES) is that we can partner in evangelism all over the planet. Long may it continue!
The challenge now is where do we go from here in terms of evangelism on campus? How do we keep last week from being the high point of our evangelism? How do we keeping pressing on? What is the next step for the Christian students and how can we help the those with questions find answers? We have already setup a blog as an online way for people to interact around the questions that they have and are planning lunch time talks on the most popular questions that people have. Please join with us in giving thanks for last week and in praying about the way ahead.
Monday, July 02, 2007
Anyway, for those of you who on the other side of the planet, here is a picture of Anna and I.
Friday, June 15, 2007
Paul Windsor taught us 15 helpful steps that he uses when preparing a sermon. Not that he was teaching some sort of golden formula where a person could plug in a bible passage and a sermon would come out the other end, rather he was giving us a framework to help us write sermons and helping us make sure that sure that our convictions and motivations about preaching were right.
Some of the steps I was familiar with from writing bible studies (understanding the context of a passage, utilising a number of translation etc.) but I also learnt a lot of news things in terms of structuring a sermon, the use of illustrations, the importance of bearing in mind those who you will be speaking to as your prepare and different forms of preaching (narrative preaching was new to me). I also learnt a bit about myself and how I shape how I speak and prepare. It is in my nature to try to observe, interpret and apply what is going in a passage all at once which gets me in a muddle because something I observe later in a passage changes how I interpreted something earlier in the passage. I probably do this out of a mixture of over-excitement (because I have come to love studying the bible), and impatience (I want it to take less time than it should to prepare a talk or bible study). I have to fight to stick to observe, interpret, apply as seperrate stages of preparation.
One way that this course was a rebuke to me was that if I am honest I was dismayed there were fifteen steps. I was hoping for five! But this was a rebuke for me because one of the reasons that I wanted to do this course is that I am convinced that God works by spirit through the teaching of His word and that I believe 1 Timothy 3:16 to be true. Also James 3:1 say that those who teach will be judged differently. God places a priority on us teaching the bible well.
If I believe these things then I should be willing to do the hard work of understanding and applying the bible well. And that isn't going to be achieved by cutting corners in preparation. In my defense it is not that I had stopped believing these things; rather that I had let myself fall into the trap of saying yes to talks that I didn't have enough time to prepare for adequately so wanted a quick way of churning out sermons where as I should have learnt to say yes to less.
Please don't take any of this to mean that I think that understanding and applying the bible is only possible for or only the task of those who "officially" teach or have been "officially" taught. I am simply talking about some things that I have learnt and been reminded of in my pursuit of handling the bible well.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
I have spent the last week holed up in my flat working on an essay. Because it is the Easter break there are less students around so I have not been working any evenings. I was enjoying having time to myself, doing what I wanted, when I wanted and not having to think about anyone else. Because I have had a busy few weeks I convinced myself that I had earned this time to myself. I wanted some more time to myself.
I close friend asked me if I was okay, said that I seemed different. I replied that I was okay, just a little tired.
Part of this mornings sermon was on the importance of relationships and community. I was convicted. I had stopped caring about others and was emphasising what I wanted as being the most important thing. I knew it in my heart. This was not my conscience being hard on me.
Not that I am saying that it is wrong to spend some time on our own from time to time but when it leads to wanting still more time away from people the motivation may need checking.
I guess that since the fall one if the reasons that it is not good for people to be alone is that it allows our already selfish hearts to become all the more selfish.
I am thankful for my friend, for the guy who preached this morning, for the spirits conviction and for the chance to spend some time with people after church.
Friday, March 30, 2007
Learning from that experience and made a few choices before I moved to New Zealand and got the some friends from my old home to help while I got settled.
I have fallen into the trap of thinking that at the end of my first year it would all be sorted. Now don't get me wrong. God has been very gracious in so many ways and I know that He will continue to be. I know that this is where I am supposed to be. I have a job that I love (most of the time at least). I have some great people who have become my friends and I care for them a great deal and am very grateful for them.
But I had forgotten to think past the first twelve months and the lessons learnt during my last move. Back then I reached the point where I knew some people well but it became more difficult to get to know more people. I was no longer new so people understandably didn't think that I needed supporting in that kind of way any longer. But I was too British to admit that I wasn't as settled as I people thought I was. But I was more settled within another 6 months or so. I also spent some time away from Leicester catching up with family (with a large family every month is someones birthday!) and friends around the country. This I was committed to doing because they are important to me but it also helped me come to feel settled wherever I was.
Skip forward to now I have gotten to know a small group of people quite well which is a blessing. But it is hard trying to get to know more people. Add into that there is the awareness of being less and less involved in life back home. Not that I have stopped caring or that friends or family have stopped caring. It is just more seperate. You miss little things that happen with family. Life moves on. Friends get married and you can't really be involved. It is just more seperate.
Not that life is all bad by any means. It is great getting to know more people and sharing life with them. But it is not easy. I now remember what I had forgotten and I am thankful that my first move was to a place where friends and family were still near(ish). I remember God's provision and faithfulness from then and it makes now hopeful. I am beginning to understand more of the importance that the bible places on remembering.
Monday, March 26, 2007
What the Small Business Server 2003 Internet connection wizard did was reset the permissions on relaying via our smtp (simple mail transfer protocol) server. Our server became an open relay. It is generally how spam email senders operate. They cannot generate large numbers of emails off of there own Internet Service provider so they look for insecure smtp servers and use them to send their spam. The internet connection wizard set out smtp server to allow connections from users with accounts on the server and from the servers own IP address. What seemed to be happening is that mail being relayed seemed to be hitting the server before being relayed and therefore when the emails got to be relayed they came from the server IP address and were therefore allowed. 750,000 emails were generated off our server in 3 days using this method. Thankfully our spam protection caught them all. Our server is now set to only relay email from authorised and authenticated users.
What a useful feature of the internet connection wizard. For my part I did not change any email settings so didn't think to check them. I will in future
Geek episodeover. One positive is that I have been able to work at full capacity again. so hopefully the worst of this virus is over. Yay! Thanks for your prayers.
Monday, March 19, 2007
But it is a helpful reminder that things don't depend upon me. God is working. Sometimes through us and other times around us. But His plans do not hinge upon us. They hinge upon His being God. Thanks be to Him for that.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Saturday, January 20, 2007
I spent three and half weeks back in England. I had a wonderful time over Christmas with family and then two weeks of travelling the land catching up with friends and supporters which was again wonderful (accept for the day where I spent 6 hours on the hard shoulder of the M2). It was great to be able to spend time with my family over Christmas and just enjoy their company and be part of their day by day lives again (although I do have to confess that the sound track to High School musical is very much stuck in my head. But in my defense it does have some very catchy tunes!).
It was great to be able to thank people face to face for their support and also catch up with them face to face as great as skype and MSN are they are not the same as being in the same room. I am extremely grateful for peoples generosity from loaning me vehicles to me appearing and asking if I could use their toilet when driving long distances to letting me use their homes as a base. It was just great to be with people again. Before I left back in January 05 some people told me that relationships won't die just because I am on the other side of the world but I was worried that the practise may turn out to be different. After a year I can say that it really is okay which was a joy and a relief.
As for returning to New Zealand it was vastly different to when I flew out in January 06. It was relief to find that I was looking forward to returning to New Zealand. I am sure that this was in part due to confirming that relationships don't die but it was also due to the fact that I have a life in New Zealand now and do love it here.
But my understanding of home has changed. It has very little to do with places or geography. Thailand, NZ and the UK are all places that I am (to some degree) familiar with. But this time in Thailand I was in a place that I had not been before but it felt familiar as the people I know in Thailand were there. Where as the places I had been before felt strange because the people I associated with that place were no longer there. The same goes for the UK as on this visit I went to places that I had never been before but because I knew the people in each place I went to it felt familiar; like home.
I friend mentioned somewhere in his blog that here in earth is not our home but that heaven is (see Hebrews for more). One of things I have been thinking about over the past year is heaven. I think the bible describes heaven in tangible ways but for many of us it feels foreign, unreal and intangible at best we know it is going to be shiny. As a result we become more focused on life here and now which is not our real home. One of the books I read described heaven as "Eden plus" which is not saying that Eden was not good but the heaven will be like Eden in that we will be restored into the relationship with God we were made for but we will have even more than Adam and Eve because Jesus will be involved in a way that He wasn't before. I still have very much to learn and grasp about heaven but I have now realised how having our relationship with God fully restored will be part of what makes heaven a Christians' home.