October 2018

Spiritual Warfare for Practical People (Intermission – Issue 36)

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I woke up with my heart leaping from my chest. My mind and emotions were not at rest. I had made some decisions that might have impacted my family negatively. I felt a lack of communication and a tangible sense of unease in some of my primary relationships. I felt more tired than I thought I should be, flat spiritually and as if discouragement had somehow attached itself to my insides. In other words, I felt some kind of spiritual resistance. I think I was under attack!

Scripture tells us we have three primary enemies: the devil, the world and the flesh. When D.L Moody – an American evangelist in 1837-1899 – was asked one day, “Who is the biggest obstacle in your ministry?” his response was, “D.L. Moody!” That has also been my experience. My biggest problems are usually caused by… well, me, to be honest.  But before we get too discouraged, Moody also said, “If this world is going to be reached, I am convinced that it must be done by men and women of average talent.”

And I think that means we don’t need to be spiritual giants or super humans to deal with spiritual attack. But we may need to be alert, because the devil, that enemy Satan, is an opportunist, and just loves to find a chink in our armour. He tries to irritate, distract or harm us. It can be mistakes we make, sins we commit, sins of omission, and even sins we have been forgiven that he may suggest we are not really forgiven for, that Satan will use against us.

So when we find ourselves in what may very well be a spiritual storm, what can we do? Scripture is the obvious place to start, and I love the clear, practical advice in James 4:6-10:

 “But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

’God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble’.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”  

Good old James is so sensible and practical, isn’t he? The following are some practical steps we can take.

Submit to God. Do things God’s way. Am I part of the problem, in my actions and attitudes? Confess it to God. Clean up any unfinished business. Is there anyone I have harmed or neglected etc? Go to them soon, apologise and ask for forgiveness. Then, resist the devil. Simply, clearly and with the authority God has promised in the scripture above. I believe that if you’ve acted on the first two steps, then any legal ground the enemy may have to hassle you is gone. You will find that “mountains” become “molehills” pretty quickly, the fog will lift and you will be able to see the sun and the way forward again.

Just a small example of this. My wife, Ruth, and I pastored churches in New Zealand for about ten years, and we had five small children. And if ever Ruth and I were going to have an argument, it would seem to erupt just before we were heading off to church on Sunday mornings. If ever a child could not find one shoe, it would be Sunday morning. If ever a child was to throw up all over their best clothes, yes, it would be Sunday morning! So, we would not arrive at church happy and serene as befitting our station! It didn’t take too long to see this was becoming a pattern. Did the devil cause these things or just take advantage of them happening? I’m not sure, but what I do know is that he loved to see us angry and frustrated right before we headed off to church.

When we prayed that this pattern – and our reactions – would change, almost immediately things improved. Yes, there was still the occasional lost shoe or vomit, but our reactions to these things became much gentler and more loving towards each other. And, as a bonus, we became more strategic as well! We would make sure all the shoes and clothes were laid out and ready on Saturday night. Also, I (Mike) would try and have my sermon written and finished off by Thursday night to relieve any ‘late pressure’.

Usually, when I don’t see a change for the better or have a breakthrough, it’s because I have tried to shortcut the process, and have not completed steps one and two properly before entering the battle. I have to remember that “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” I believe the most effective warfare stance is the bent knee and a humble, teachable heart.

Some may say, “This battle is not spiritual, it is emotional, psychological, physical, circumstantial, etc. and I don’t see a devil or demon hiding behind a bush waiting to attack.” Well that is ok; however you perceive it is fine with me. Yet I still think the principles outlined in James will put you in a far more secure place, knowing that you are submitted to God, open to his guidance and striving to be at peace with others in your world.

This will give you victory over many kinds of battles.

Mike works on staff at the NZCMS central office in Christchurch. 

This article is part of NZCMS’ quarterly magazine Intermission. Each article will be uploaded periodically and can be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission. Alternatively, to receive a physical copy of the magazine, feel free to email us at office@nzcms.org.nz or call on 03 377 2222. 

God’s Blessing and Provision

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I’ve now been in Nairobi Kenya for over a week and decided it was time to stop and reflect on the blessing and provision of God and all that has happened.

“‘Because he loves me,’ says the Lord, ‘I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honour him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation’.” – Psalm 91:14-16

I was given this Psalm as I left to begin my journey and the promises in this passage have rung so loud and true, not just for travel, but for the whole journey and preparation involved in my trip to Kenya.

I titled this “God’s blessings and provision” because that is how I would describe the journey to get to Kenya over the last six months. From the year in which the internship at Nairobi Chapel came about and the smoothness of it falling into place, I can only give credit to the Lord. Watching him provide a job for me when over 80 people applied so that I could help fund this journey, to seeing people generously giving in ways I didn’t think possible. I’m in awe of the way the Lord provides for those who seek him.

I arrived in Kenya after a safe, easy traveling experience and had a car waiting for me to pick me up that I’d not arranged. And finally, it’s been such a blessing meeting those I’ve met so far and seeing the joy they have about themselves and filled with such a servant attitudes. The Lord’s provision and blessing has been more than I can handle and I’m reminded of the grace he shows all of us when we have nothing to offer. I’ve called on the Lord and he has answered in so many ways.

If I were to ask for anything it is that you would pray that I keep my eyes and ears open to both seeing and hearing from the Lord. And that my heart would be revived but also ready to give back and show God’s love and grace to those who are brought across my path.

Hopefully this may be an encouragement and reminder of “God’s blessing and provision” and point towards his amazing grace for all.

-Sam, NZCMS Intern. 

Monica Meadowcroft remembered

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Last week, we sadly announced that Monica Meadowcroft had passed away. She passed on September 22 and her funeral was held on September 26. Monica was a NZCMS Mission Partner, council member and life long member of NZCMS. Below is a tribute written by her son Tim Meadowcroft, which we would like to share with you and the wider NZCMS family. Please pray with us for the Meadowcroft family during this time.

Our mother, Monica Meadowcroft, died on 22 September 2018 aged 91. She was born Monica Morris in 1927 in Wantage in the south of England, where her father was teaching at King Alfred College. The family came to New Zealand when Mum was three, for her father to take up a post as head of maths at Christs College. He held this post till his retirement. So much of Mum’s upbringing revolved around Christs College and the house in Watford Street, Papanui.

She attended Christchurch Girls High and is remembered to have had lunch regularly with a group of friends on the roof of the old school in Cranmer Square. During this period she was influenced to faith by, among others, Alison Moore who later married Ken Dalley and served with him in medical mission with NZCMS in East Africa. She attended a strong young people’s ministry at St James, Lower Riccarton in the 1940s. She met Dad, who had come down from Nelson to university in Canterbury while washing dishes in the vicarage after evening services and then walking home with him through Hagley Park. The washing of dishes seems to have been deployed as a courtship device in such circles.

Mum completed a BSc in Maths and subsequently taught maths and science briefly at St Margaret’s College. She continued to get to know Dad in the context of the Evangelical Union and the ministry of Roger Thompson at St Martins, Spreydon. They walked home from the evening Bible Studies at St Martin’s also; they seemed to walk home a lot and were still doing it 70 years later, 66 of which were as a married couple.

During these years, the late 1940s, Mum and Dad were part of a flowering of Anglican mission interest amongst young people that would fuel NZCMS for the next generation. They were both active in the League of Youth. A number of people from those years remained close friends. Those years also included being associated with the maturing influence of older returned servicemen students in immediate postwar years. Pakistan was a focus during this period, and Mum, independently of her relationship with Dad, was developing a keen interest in work in India.

After a brief period teaching at Christs College after university, Dad was ordained in 1951 into the Nelson Diocese and posted to Greymouth as curate. He was required to board with the vicar and his mother, and this was not much fun at all. In the meantime, Mum and Dad maintained their courtship by utilising the midnight railcar between Greymouth and Christchurch. Due to his difficult accommodation circumstances, Dad lobbied vigorously for permission to marry before the end of the curacy. He got the dispensation, so Mum married Dad in August 1952, and I arrived in rapid but respectable time.

In their wedding photos, Dad is wearing one of those big old-fashioned clerical collars. It was clear that in marrying Dad, Mum was signing on to her own vocation as ministry in support of Dad’s ordained ministry. This she carried out with great panache and intent. We remember growing up in a hospitable environment, sometimes, from a child’s perspective, annoyingly so. It was a model of generous living. This hospitality continued through the entire period of active ministry.

After a spell working with Dad in Seddon parish, Mum set off with him and a young child by ship to England, round the Horn and through the Panama Canal due to the Suez crisis of 1956. A formative time at Liskeard Lodge in Kent, including regular teaching from Max Warren, was followed by sailing for Pakistan in early 1957. The time in England was a chance for Mum to connect with what she grew up thinking of as “home,” as many New Zealanders of the time did.

We most recently have seen in Mum, a frail old lady. I see a young woman heading off to the unknown with a small child in the days when communications were distant. I see her giving birth to twins in a small clinic up in the Murree Hills, not having previously known she was carrying twins, Michael and Kathy. I see her losing our sister Lucy at several hours old in 1963 and burying her in Sialkot. From that period she was comforted by a verse from Proverbs that hung on her wall for many years: “The blessing of the Lord it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it.” I see her coping for weeks on end with three children on her own as the patterns of mission life required regular separations from Dad. I see her making a home wherever she found herself. I see her sending her children away to boarding school for six months a year when communication was no more than a weekly letter (written under duress by one party). I see her working as a research lab technician to put Dad through a degree in Princeton. I see her travelling internationally with young children and negotiating the complexities of arrivals and departures in foreign ports. And I remember her being unable to return home when her mother was killed in a road accident in 1974. She spent some hours running around the Murree hillside searching for a working telephone to ring home. Again, such were communications in those days. And of course amongst all this were the many joys of international relationships sustained over the years.

After a term in Karachi on the first arrival in Pakistan, the 14 years at Gujranwala Theological Seminary in Punjab were the centrepiece of both Mum and Dad’s ministry during their time in Pakistan, up to 1975. During those years Mum’s gifts of administration and hospitality flourished. She was on the board of Murree Christian School for a period. Her home was well organised and hospitable, and she was involved in manifold ways in the life of the seminary, from bookkeeping to dispensary work to literacy training to family planning campaigning. These were years of great challenge and significant achievement in ministry; all were supported and enabled by Mum.

From their time in parish ministry back in New Zealand, many can attest to Mum’s focus on making the vicarage a centre of parish life, first in Papanui and then St Matthews, Dunedin. Ministry in both parishes was marked by the development of active groups of young adults into faith and leadership, enabled in no small measure by Mum’s ministry of hospitality and open home. Both were busy parishes, and especially in Dunedin included a strong student focus.

Mum with Dad continued to maintain a strong commitment to NZCMS. Mum spent some years as a member of the council, and she was made a life member of the Society.

Mum loved the caravan and trips to Hanmer and earlier to Waikouaiti out of Dunedin. The years of retirement at Wyn Street in Hoon Hay and then in the villa at Santa Maria/Thorrington Village enabled Mum to express her love of gardening and pets. She became active in St Andrews and St Nicholas.

Mum had a simple, unquestioning faith, which helped to ground those around her. A strong and determined person, she became a leader in places where she has found herself. According to Dad, “she became the leader of every group to which she has ever belonged.” This meant of course that she could occasionally be known to be quite formidable. Yet, for all that, she lived in service of others.

In recent times, Mum has become increasingly confined, and Dad has cared assiduously and lovingly for her. We are grateful for the staff at Thorrington Village for their care of Mum and flexibility with us as a family. The evident distress of so many staff at Mum’s passing is a testimony both to Mum and to their own caring of her, for both of which we are grateful. Mum’s was a life well-lived.

After she died, I found a small book of love poems which had been given to her by Dad. It was marked at Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem, “If Thou Must Love Me.” It opens with the line, “If thou must love me, let it be for naught / Except for love’s sake only.” Our mother both received and gave that kind of love for seventy years with Dad. And we who have been produced by and come within the orbit of that love have been blessed.