September 2014

Humans need not apply

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We live in a world quite unlike the world of those who have gone before us. Sure, things always change, and every generation thinks they have made that totally amazing breakthrough that makes them the most unique generation of all time. But I really think something is different about the changes we’ve seen in our lifetimes. Technology hasn’t just made things a lot easier – it’s completely transformed how we relate to the world.

If we step back and consider all the amazing changes we’ve seen over the past, say, 20 years, we’d be amazed. And I think it can be summed up in my smart-phone. Just the fact that I can communicate with virtually anyone, anywhere in the world, and I can be standing almost anywhere in the world – it’s just crazy. (It wasn’t all that long ago that the only way to send a message semi-long-distance was via pigeon.) But what makes a smart-phone so revolutionary is how, in just a second, I can access the totality of humankind’s knowledge on absolutely everything. The internet has enabled us to know anything, and my phone means I can access that any time, any place. Why do cats purr? Google it. How many moons does earth have? Google it (and no, the answer isn’t one!).

Here’s where it gets a little scary. We’ve only seen the first glimpses of this new technological age. We’re on the precipices, and no one really knows what the next step is. And this raises a bunch of serious questions. Where are we headed as humanity? Is technology good or bad?  Is all this amazing technological innovation going to create new levels of poverty? And where is God in all of this change?

I’ve attached this video, not because it has any answers, but because I think it raises some very interesting questions about where we (may) be headed. While watching it (and I highly recommend it) ask yourself: what does this mean for us today, as 21st century believers?

 

THE MUSE

Ponder the content of the video. Is this something to take seriously? What implications does the changing shape of technology have for us as believers? As mission-ers? As humans?!

 

THE MOVE

I dare you to spend a day without any electronic technology. If you’re brave enough to try it, share your experience with us below!

 

 

Jon is the NZCMS communications guy.

How Are We To Love the Soldiers of ISIS?

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Here’s a blog post from Greg Boyd asking the all important question: how are we supposed to love the Soldiers of ISIS? Not everyone will agree with the angle Greg takes, but this is certainly a question we all need to wrestle with.

Over the last several weeks I’ve received some form of this question almost every day. In some cases the question is asked rhetorically, as though the very question exposes the absurdity of suggesting we are to love this terroristic group. Other times the question is asked with a pragmatic twist. One person recently said to me: “If everyone just laid down their arms and loved ISIS, America would before long be under their barbaric rule. Is that what you really want?” I assured him that it was not.

To begin, it’s first important to remember that the teaching of Jesus, Paul and the rest of the New Testament about never retaliating and about instead choosing to love, bless, pray for, and do good to our enemies is emphatic, unambiguous, and never once qualified (e.g. Mt 5:21-6, 38-48; Lk 6:27-36; Rom 12:14-21). Indeed, Jesus goes so far as to make our willingness to unconditionally love enemies the pre-condition for being considered a “child of your Father in heaven” (Mt 5:44-5; Lk 6:35-6). While this radical mandate may violate our core intuitions about justified violence, and while it certainly flies in the face of many people’s pragmatic concerns, if we confess Jesus as Lord, I submit that this simply means there must be something amiss with our intuitions and pragmatic concerns. If Jesus is in fact Lord, faithfulness to his teaching and example must trump all other considerations. Otherwise we must face Jesus’ pointed question: “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say” (Lk 6:46)?

Second, it’s important to note that the pragmatic concern about what would happen if everyone obeyed Jesus and therefore loved ISIS is a Christendom-type concern, for it presupposes that part of the job of Christians is to run the world. While it may sound irresponsible to the world’s pragmatists, the sole concern for Jesus followers is to be faithful citizens and ambassadors of the kingdom of God. It was precisely when the church of the fourth century embraced the pragmatic concern that it compromised the concern for faithfulness by setting down the cross and picking up the sword.

Not only this, but kingdom people need to notice that most of the world’s violence—including violence carried out “in Jesus name” throughout history—has been the result of people trying to more effectively run the world. Believing they had superior ideas about how best to rule, nations and religions have felt justified killing any who oppose them. To my mind, this simply bears witness to the fact that humans were created to be under the Lordship of their Creator, not under the lordship of other humans. When people place their trust in human rulers, it is tantamount to rejecting God (see I Sam 8) and things invariably go bad. Kingdom people are called to bear witness to God’s original design by pledging our sole allegiance to Jesus Christ and to trust him to oversee the world. This singular devotion to Christ is what empowers us to “leave all vengeance to God” and instead love and serve our enemies (Rom. 12:19-21).

It’s also relevant to people’s pragmatic concerns that, immediately after telling Jesus’ followers to “leave all vengeance to God,” Paul goes on to specify that one of the ways God exacts “vengeance” and punishes wrongdoers is by using sword-wielding governments (Rom. 13:1-6). In other words, Paul forbade kingdom people to do the very thing he assumes governments are willing to do: namely, wielding the sword. So too, Paul instructs kingdom people to leave to God the very thing that God uses governments to accomplish: namely, wielding the sword to exact vengeance on wrongdoers.

In this light, there is no need for Jesus followers to worry about what would happen if “everyone put down their weapons and loved ISIS.” The number of those willing to actually follow Jesus’ teachings and example has, unfortunately, always been relatively small, even among professing Christians. And, as Jacque Ellul so profoundly argued in is book, Violence: Reflections From A Christian Perspective, as long as there are nations and governments, there will be people who are more than willing to engage in violence, for no national government can rule its people and survive outside threats without being willing to engage in violence. Nations, governments and violence go hand-in-hand, in other words. The call of kingdom people is to opt out of this whole enterprise by pledging allegiance to Christ alone as we leave all vengeance to God and simply imitate Christ by loving our enemies (Eph 5:1-2).

With this background in place, we are in a position to notice something important about the question: How are we to love the soldiers of ISIS? The only reason this question is different from the question of how we are to love anybody else is that these people strike us as more evil than others and/or because we may be concerned about what would happen if everybody loved these soldiers. But as we’ve just seen, our call to love has nothing to do with how “good” or “evil” a person is. We’re to love “the righteous” and the “wicked,” just like the rain falls and the sun shines (Mt 5:44-45). And we’ve seen that the pragmatic concern is not part of kingdom call and is, in any case, completely unfounded. Hence, we can see that, if we’re thinking like kingdom people, the question of how we are to love the soldiers of ISIS is no different than the question of how we are to love anybody else. On that note, I’ll conclude by stating two aspects of how we are to love all people, including the soldiers of ISIS.

First, we are love the soldiers of ISIS, as we do all others, by agreeing with God that each of these soldiers has unsurpassable worth as evidenced by God’s willingness to pay an unsurpassable price for them. As God did for us and all people on Calvary, we are to ascribe unsurpassable worth to these soldiers at cost to ourselves. For most of us, the “cost to ourselves” will simply be whatever difficulty we confront as we push past our judgments, our intuitions about justified violence, and our pragmatic concerns in order to bring our hearts in line with God’s assessment of their worth on Calvary. However, for people who are directly affected by the barbarism of ISIS or who feel called to engage them as peacemakers, the cost of refusing violence and loving enemies may unfortunately be much greater. They may lose their lives, just as Jesus did. Yet, doing so does not signify defeat for the kingdom person, for if done in love, this is precisely how kingdom people overcome (see e.g. Rev. 12:11).

Second, we can love the soldiers of ISIS by praying for them and their families. Among our prayers should be prayers of blessing for their families as well as prayers for the soldiers’ deliverance. We understand that our real enemy, and their real enemy, is not “flesh and blood”: they are rather the “principalities and powers” that imprison humans in lies, hate, vengeance, the lust for power and, therefore, violence (Eph 6:12). As Origen told the pagan Celsus who accused second century Christians of being unpatriotic because of their unwillingness to fight, for all we know, the prayer we offer on behalf of our enemies does more to bring peace to our nation than killing ever could (Contra Celsus). And while killing enemies is inconsistent with expressing Calvary-like love toward them, praying for them both expresses and applies it.

 

What do you think of Greg’s perspective? And more importantly, what can we do to love these enemies of ours?

 

Thanks ReKnew for letting us share this. Re-blogged from here.

An Update from Nadia

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The last month has seen a lot of changes, a lot of challenges and a lot of achievements.

For the last two weeks I have been the only ‘Muzungu’ left at Potter’s Village as Sue and Mike have been home on leave and Rosie needed to head home to be with her family for a while. So how did that affect things? Well in some ways it didn’t… everyone has been as lovely to me as ever, though perhaps they check up on me a bit more to make sure I’m not too lonely! In the medical centre it has meant that we are a little tight on staff and I have been on-call the majority of the time which is draining, but it has been a quiet month which, perhaps, is for the best.

The medical centre still demands my creativity and I never stop learning new things. A recent bout of typhoid cases has taught me a lot about the management of the illness and an unusual case in the nursery had me researching for days!

In terms of my education projects, the staff from Kisoro hospital who have been selected to work in their new Special Care Nursery have begun to come over and spend some time with us and learn about how to care for neonates and run a nursery. It’s a little over-whelming trying to figure out where to start on teaching people when they need to know everything and there is so little time! I talked so much the first day my throat hurt! There is a long way to go with this but a start has been made and they seem very enthusiastic though which is encouraging.

Feeling a little over-tired I decided to get away for a weekend last week since I was rostered for a long-weekend off. I went and stayed at a lodge right on the edge of Bwindi Impenetrable forest. I admit, I spent most of the weekend just catching up on sleep, enjoying not having to cook and relaxing on my little veranda that was barely two metres from the edge of the forest, enjoying the view and reading books. I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity for this mini-break and also to see a little more of the exceptional beauty of nature here in Uganda.

Recently, with the medical centre staff, I have been going through neonatal scenarios looking at how to identify what is wrong with babies and how to decide on the appropriate treatment and management. It was, therefore, a big moment of pride across the board when, on getting back from my weekend away, the staff presented a complex case to me, which had come in over the weekend, and their management of the case which was spot on! I was so proud of them for their achievement and it was great to see their excitement and the growth in their confidence in neonatal care.

My time at Potter’s Village is fast coming to an end with my last day of working in the medical centre set for October the 24th, exactly a month away! After this I will have a week break to refresh myself and also renew my visa before heading to my next destination, Kisiizi Hospital.

A New Spirit and a New Hope

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The following is an update from Bishop Mouneer of the Diocese of Egypt where our Mission Partner Rosie is based.

Dear friends,

Last week we heard about terrorist attacks which targeted the army and the police in Egypt. These attacks occur from time to time since the removal of the Muslim Brotherhood from power.

Also last week, millions of Egyptians queued in the banks to deposit whatever they had in order to participate with the Egyptian government in fulfilling a new project in Egypt to establish a new canal parallel to Suez Canal. This was the response of the Egyptian people to the call made by President Al-Sisi to participate in this ‘project of the country’.

The new canal project will cost around 60 billion Egyptian pounds, but it will improve the economy and create many job opportunities. People bought shares in this project according to their ability from as low as 10 Egyptian pounds to several thousand pounds. The surprise was that the people paid more than the 60 billion pounds needed for the project.

This was an amazing response from the Egyptian people who did not allow fear from terrorism to hinder their hope in the future of Egypt. I see the millions who crowded at the banks as another referendum in support of the current government. It is a new spirit and a new hope.

I hope the similar new spirit may spread in the church of the Middle East. We need such a new hope while we are facing many challenges such as the immigration of youth and violence against Christians.

We can have such new hope when we hold on to God’s promise ‘Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert’. (Isaiah 43 : 19)

Let us lay aside every fear, wrong and weight which can hinder us and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.

May the Lord Bless you!

Bishop Mouneer Hanna Anis

 

On the way to Fiji

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I’m now on my way to Fiji, sitting in my little seat several kilometers above the ground. Tomorrow morning I’ll see our Haerenga Interns for the first time since they left NZ a few months ago. They are excited to see me as well – and I got a call early yesterday morning just making sure everything was in order for my visit… and to make sure I hadn’t forgotten to bring them chocolate!

On Wednesday we’ll spend the day filming footage for a new Haerenga promotional video. We’ll also be documenting their experience as they take me on a tour of the village that has become there home over the past number of weeks. After that we’ll spend a couple of days doing a mid-way debrief, processing their journey in Fiji thus far.

On Friday we’ll be joined by a team of year 13 students from Middleton Grange School. We as NZCMS are assisting them with an Encounter Team short-term mission trip. I’m joining the team as the “mission consultant” (a nice title I think!) and for good measure we thought our Interns could join as well. We’ll spend almost two weeks visiting churches, schools, orphanages as well as spending time meeting people on the streets and in the markets. These students are about to be leaving school, facing the great big world for themselves. What an amazing bridge into adulthood – a time of discovering the world and serving other people.

 

Here’s a little message from Manaia, one of the team:

In the September school holidays a group of fourteen, year thirteen students from Middleton Grange School in Christchurch will be travelling over to Fiji for two weeks on a short-term missions trip. For many of us, this will be our first time on a missions trip. We will begin in Sigatoka, where will be connecting with the community through the church, schools and a hospital. After Sigtoka, we will travel up to Nadi and Lautoka, where again we will be immersed in the rich Fijian culture and actively involved in community life. This journey has the potential to be a life changing experience, so we ask for your earnest prayers for our safety and that God will use us to impact the people we encounter on this trip. We also ask that you continue to pray for the nation of Fiji, that God will continue to heal its people and bless its churches.

 

Please be praying for me and the team over the next few weeks. I’ll be doing my best to write the occasional blog post – so long as the internet will allow me!

The Way Forward – NZCMS in the Pacific (Issue 21)

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My wife Watiri and I were sitting with key Church leaders in Fiji. Archbishop Winston Halapua introduced us and then exclaimed: “What is it that Africa has that we don’t have?” As he continued to explain the taonga (gift) of the people of the South Pacific and compare it with Africa, I considered the many similarities between African and South Pacific culture: the sense of community, natural disasters like floods, squatter issues, dependence on Western funding.  And yet we may not have leveraged the potential similarities for the gospel. Watiri and I were able to bridge this gap, providing Samaritan Strategy training to those leaders, and we were amazed by the way they related with the stories we shared.

New Zealand is often seen as the gateway to the Pacific region. We’ve come to realise that, just as New Zealand has a reasonability to assist Pacific nations wherever possible, so do we as NZCMS. But what is our role in the South Pacific – in Melanesia and Polynesia? Should we be sending them more long-term missionaries? Should we be sending them more resources? While there is certainly a place for these things, we are in a position as NZCMS to offer something even deeper. The Pacific already has a well-established church – I believe what is most needed now is solid leadership training. We hope to continue providing training to leaders throughout the region, equipping them to do God’s missional work for themselves, discipling their own nations according to biblical principles.

Over the last eight months, NZCMS has delivered Samaritan Strategy training in Papua New Guinea, Fiji and New Zealand. The results have been beyond our expectations. Space only allows me to mention one story from each location. 200 leaders in Papua New Guinea (Dogura Diocese) were trained, and one group is exploring how to use alternative methods of livelihoods (e.g. agriculture instead of fishing) for the benefit of the community. 30 leaders were trained in Fiji (including clergy from the Diocese of Polynesia), and one pastor developed a vision for the unemployed youth in his community. 70 Tikanga Maori leaders were trained, and one of the groups – Mission Rohe te Tai Hauauru – developed a plan to have the gospel shared in the Te Kawau Maro Maniapoto Festival which will involve 57 Marae! Plans are underway to train leaders in Samoa this September 2014 and 150 youth leaders in Tonga in December.

We continue to receive requests for Samaritan Strategy training in South Pacific. The next step is to train up trainers and facilitators who can fulfil this demand. That is why the DNA conference in November in Manukau is crucial. Please pray and consider who you could approach to come along. This will enable us as NZCMS to fulfil our calling to disciple the South Pacific.

Haerenga 2015 and prayer

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I’m convinced that if we researched it, we’d find a powerful story about answered prayer behind every story of personal salvation – and I’m certain that was the case in my life! In a similar way, I’m sure that pray has played a significant role in the major life decisions of Christians throughout the centuries. I’m humbled to think of all those who prayed for me when I decided to go into the ‘mission field,’ when I got engaged, when I was considering doing Bible College, when my wife and I moved to New Zealand.

Now, as we approach the end of the year, young Christians across the country are asking themselves (and God!) what they should do next year. High school students may be considering a gap-year. Uni graduates may be considering ‘testing-out’ cross-cultural mission. This is also the best time for people to consider and apply for our Haerenga Mission Internship.

We believe that we have developed an amazing, life-changing, world-influencing programme, and it is our hope that Haerenga will continue to grow. This is why we are asking for focused prayer for those who are currently considering doing the internship as well as those God is calling to do it who haven’t yet heard about it.

A couple of weeks ago I joined our Tuesday NZCMS prayer meeting in Christchurch, and each of us was asked to pray for one prospective intern. Afterwards one of the pray-ers said it was such a great idea, and that he wanted to continue praying for that person for the next few months: that God would uphold them, guide them, and if it was right, that they would apply for Haerenga.

 

Are you interested in praying for one prospective intern as well? If you are, email Kirstin@nzcms.org.nz.

Changes in the Christian Vote

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This election campaign I’ve been struck by a number of things: David Cunliffe’s expressive neck, Peter Dunn’s impeccable hair, Collin Craig’s awkward ‘Mr Burn’s’ like walk. But I’m always intrigued by how quickly the media (and other people) lazily stereotype the “Christian vote” as automatically being of the Conservative Party persuasion. For example, last election I was involved in an event that saw around 300 young adult Christians surveyed over who they were going to vote for. And it showed a surprising shift in the way young people of faith were voting.

Any chump will see a big split between the majority Greenies on the left, and then the National blue bloods on the right, with poor old Labour pretty much being left to wither & die in the middle. (Note: this was after the glory days of United Future, and before the Collin Craig Conservatives had come to town proper)

Now, I’d imagine that John Key would probably see this as business as usual. But, a party who’s roots were probably more in the humanist camp, has accidentally found themselves attracting a big chunk of the younger Christian vote? I suspect the Green Party would be pretty darn surprised by those numbers, and this seems to signal that a wider range of ideas are getting traction when it comes to the way faith and politics mix for the next generation of voters.

I realise for some older Christian voters seeing so many votes going the Greens way will probably give them chills (this was before the abortion policy flared up too), but let me give some quick thoughts on why the surge.

In the past many kiwi Christians have sort of imposed the American political scene onto our own – assuming the politics of the right has equalled family values, a conservative social ethic and economic stewardship.

But in recent times Millenial’s have resonated deeply with a theology that has a heavy emphasis on holistic Shalom and the Kingdom of God: social justice, Jesus’ bias towards the poor, care of creation, the Good News embodied. And what are the NZ Green party’s big three catch phrases? A fairer society, a greener economy, and a cleaner environment. So even though I doubt this was ever the Green parties intention with these policies – it’s pretty understandable that some young Christians who have been told God is deeply concerned with unjust social structures, environmental care and those in poverty would see them as the party who most overtly articulates these Gospel values.

Every major party is made up of strange bedfellows with strangely convergent interests. For the Nat’s it’s corporate stockbrokers and farmers, for Labour it’s coal miners and the LGBT community, for United Future it’s family value Christians and duck hunters. So, when the Greens announced their abortion policy a few months back – it made huge waves in the Green voting Christian community – as people wrestled with what seemed to connect deeply with Kingdom values on one hand, and seemed to go contrary to Christian ethics on the other.

Anyway, it proves we shouldn’t swallow the overly simplistic stereotypes of voting blocks that are often dished up by the likes of Newstalk ZB. And that for all of MMP’s foibles, it’s blessed us with at least one great thing:

Way more options when it comes to allowing Christians to express and articulate the kind of country we think God wants New Zealand to be. It’s just the choice isn’t always black and white. Or blue and red.

 

THE MUSE

Have you taken the time to read up on all the various political parties? What issues do you think are most important this year? What policies will sway your vote? (For a larger version of the image at the top click here.

 

THE MOVE.

This one’s easy: get up and vote tomorrow. And have fun watching the vote counting on election night. Why not make it an event?

 

Rev Spanky Moore is the young adults ministry guy for the Anglican church in Christchurch and has just started as the chaplain at the University of Canterbury. He’s spent the past four years wrestling with the questions and tensions that happen when you mix young adults, faith and the church through things like the Society of Salt and Light and the Thirsty Workers Guild. He loves to think about the way church, mission and culture shape & fight each other, and also has a widely acclaimed beard.

Thank you from the McCormicks

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Anne and Anthony would like to thank everyone for their support at the recent Cambodian Evening. They were hugely encouraged by the results. With proceeds from the dinner, the auction, the sales table and a generous donation from someone at the dinner, they now have enough funds to cover the cost of the paper-making machine for Anne’s handcraft project AND the airfare for Mark Lander to travel to Cambodia to set-up the machine and give training in its use. Let’s continue to pray for the McCormicks as they return to Cambodia and take up their new ministries there at Handa Hospital.