Guest post

Transformed by the Trinity

Posted on

The early Christians were Jews and strict monotheists – believers in only one God. But they came to believe that God should be called both ‘one’ and ‘three’ at the same time. Their belief in the Trinity became a central belief (even though ‘Trinity’ is a Latin word not found in the Bible). What persuaded them to do this?

 

Some New Testament Foundations

 

Look at the following four New Testament passages and ask, “How do they speak of some kind of ‘threefold’ (Father, Son, Spirit) action of the living God?”

John 16:13-15 The Son speaks of his Father and the Spirit Ephesians 1:13-14 Our God-given salvation Romans 8:9-11 The Spirit does God’s work 2 Corinthians 13:13-14 One God of love, grace and fellowship

None of these passages “proves” the Trinity – but they do show how the one God works in a threefold way in our world. That’s why the idea of the Trinity became the heart of the Christian understanding of God. The belief says that God is relational in his very being. The one true God is social not solitary.

 

God as Trinity

 

We know the doctrine of the Trinity is true by experiencing and worshiping God as Father, and as Son, and as Spirit – rather than by working it out in our minds. God cannot be fully known by reason; but God can be fully loved and worshiped. The personal salvation we experience reconciles us to God the Father, through the life and death of God the Son, in the power of God the Holy Spirit. So, our Gospel is Trinitarian, and the Trinity is the Gospel. Our eternal life comes from the Trinity, happens through the Trinity, and brings us home to the Trinity.

Our God is not an isolated ‘individual’. Our God – Father, -Son, Spirit – is, we could even say, a ‘small group’. And in the doctrine of the Trinity we feel the heartbeat of God for salvation and mission:  moving away from isolation to fellowship and community, and lovingly longing for this for others too.

 

The Trinity as a ‘divine dance’

 

This is the suggestion of Baxter Kruger in his book The Great Dance. Kruger uses the image of a ‘divine dance’ to try to explain a key word used in the early church: perichoresis. This word means ‘interpenetration’ – the way in which the concerns of one member of the Trinity become the concerns of each. So, whatever is the ‘work’ of one is the work of each – whether it’s creation, salvation, mission, making us holy, and so on. All three work together in each of these areas and the image of the three dancing is a lovely one that preserves their individuality and their perfect harmony together. So, writes Kruger,

“The logic of the incarnation and death of Jesus lies in the determined passion of the Trinity to share their life, their glory, their great dance with us – and not just with us, but with the whole creation. The dance of the Triune life is no longer just a divine dance. It is now and forever a divine-human dance.”

 

It’s all about ‘interdependence’ and partnership

 

Our God is a relational God and he intends that we reflect his relational nature in our lives. This can only happen if we move out of our isolation and into relationship with God and others. Community is not simply one aspect of human life; community is found within the divine essence of the living God. There is a relational heart to our understanding of God. Remind one another of John 3:16. From that “giving” of the Father and Son eventually comes the outpouring of the Spirit – look again at John 16:13-15. By growing the fruit of this Spirit in our lives (look at Galatians 5:22-23a, 25) we live out the message that Jesus, risen from the dead, is indeed Lord.

The self-giving life and serving of the Trinity becomes the model for the self-giving life and serving of God’s people.

 

The transforming difference that belief in God as Trinity makes

 

The argument runs like this: since we are made in God’s image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-27), God is the model and standard for humanity. The essential inner nature of God shows how we should live both as individual Christians and as the Christian community. The model does not focus on us as solitary individuals, but on ‘persons-in-community’. Nor does this life destroy our individuality. This is not independence, and it’s not dependence. It is interdependence. This becomes the ideal for us as people who are made in the image of our Triune God.

Knowing our God as Trinity influences and models the way we should act towards one another. So, what are some practical everyday ways we can partner with our God – Father, Son, Spirit – to bring God’s love and healing to family, neighbours and friends? Imagine how different our world would be if families, marriages, communities and nations lived according to the loving, serving, harmony of our one-but-three God. Now turn that imagining into prayer.

Finally, go back over what’s written above. And then prayerfully think about and respond again to the four bolded paragraphs.

Monica Meadowcroft remembered

Posted on

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.

 

 

Lord of Heavenly armies (Intermission – Issue 36)

Posted on

As I was reading tonight, the title ‘Lord of Heavenly Armies’ struck me afresh. The idea that God is the commander of the hosts is unique in that it brings a military element in. Armies are regimented, disciplined, and vast. Their commanders move them with precision and purpose, to accomplish a determined result. I know this title also refers to angel armies and that thought alone is intriguing. But what about us as part of an army?.“I’m in the Lord’s Army” – as the old Sunday school song goes. And of course, back in the day, we all got to make shields and helmets of salvation and swords. Ah, swords. Yes! I like swords. But here-in lies the problem. We’re not using our swords. We’re not disciplined. We’re not aware of the warfare we are in!

The tools of the enemy

In our New Zealand context, I would have to say the most effective strategy of the enemy is distraction. A young mum shared her dismay with me recently:; “Sue, I got up, I could find my cell phone, I could find my gym shoes, I could find the kid’s uniforms, but I couldn’t find my Bible. What does that say? I’m too busy!” Her insight and accountability to the small group of friends gathered for their regular prayer and catch-up were enough to inspire her to change.

Yes, it takes discipline to be in the Lord’s Army and it is such hard work to keep our priorities right. For myself as a mother and a leader, my first and constant battle is always to plan those ‘pray, work and rest’ rhythms so I can model a lifestyle of joy and liberty to my non-Christian friends and church community. We don’t want to be saying, “Come to Jesus and be a stressed out unit with no capacity for fun,” do we? No, we don’t! We want to be a ‘led’ and not a ‘driven’ people.

People are clear in their minds they want to be about building up God’s household and creating spaces for God to turn up but they get overwhelmed and then very quickly discouraged, consumed with negative thoughts and guilt about the kind of Christian they should, ought, could, or must be. And it’s downhill from there. They fall into condemnation and then it all gets a bit much and they we just give up.

This nasty condemnation manages to keep itself entrenched because we have this tendency to compare ourselves to others, always unfavourably. A good example is a very bright and reasonably successful man who was depressed and told his counsellor he thought it was because he hadn’t done as well as his room-mate at university. It turned out his room-mate was Elon Musk, who would later be ranked 21st on the Forbes list of The World’s Most Powerful People and listed as the 53rd richest person in the world. His counsellor has a great adage, “Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.” My adage is “‘What does God say about you?”

How we can fight back

We need constant encouragements to remind us about the reality of the story we belong to. Those of us who are mothers and fathers in the faith need to be much more intentional about speaking out words of affirmation and praise as we notice hearts wrestling to do what is right. We live in a culture that is so full of put-downs and ‘she’ll be rights’. The challenge is to keep telling the whole story, so people really understand that every step of faith is priceless and worth fighting for.

“…(You) are birthed into an inheritance that will never perish, kept in heaven for you who through faith are shielded by God’s power. Although you face all kinds of trials these have come so your faith, of greater worth than gold, may result in glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.” – (1 Peter 1:4-8).

We need to keep telling the whole story well, so that people understand whose and who they are. We need to help people understand the inheritance they have so they perceive God’s ultimate vision.

What we can learn from the stoncutters

I like the old story of the stonecutters who were asked by a traveler what they were doing. The first man continued his work and grumbled, “I am cutting stones.”

Realising that the stonecutter did not wish to engage in a conversation, the traveler moved toward the second man and repeated the question. To the traveler’s delight, this time the man stopped his work, ever so briefly, and bluntly stated that as soon as he had earned ten quid he was going to return home.

The traveller headed to the third man and asked again about his work.

This time the worker paused, glanced at the traveler until they made eye contact and then looked skyward, drawing the traveler’s eyes upward.

He replied, “I am a stonecutter and I am building a cathedral. I have journeyed many miles to be part of the team that is constructing this magnificent building. I have spent many months away from my family and I miss them dearly. However, I know how important this cathedral will be and I know many people will find sanctuary and solace here. I know this because the Bishop told me his vision for people to come from all parts to worship God. He also told me that the cathedral would not be completed in our days but that the future depends on our hard work. I know this is the right thing to do even though it is costly.”

Our choices, day to day

Our simple daily choosing to do the right thing has an eternal impact. Soldiers have courage, make sacrifices, and stand firm if they understand the objectives and if they understand the greater purpose they are fighting for. If we’re going to have any effect as Christians in this battle for souls, we need to believe God does indeed do what he promised and has in fact already determined the result.

Most importantly, resolve to stay the course and to listen moment by moment for the commands from the Captain of the Lord of Hosts. We must listen so we may live.

“Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.” – (Isaiah 55:3).

Sue is a Vicar at Sounds Anglican Parish.

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 the physical copy, feel free to email us at office@nzcms.org.nz or call us on 03 377 2222. 

 

The Battle Within

Posted on

A relatively typical scenario for me as a counsellor is the client who tells me about conflict in the workplace they once loved, loss of a valued friendship, discouragement around their future or difficulties with family. Then, when I ask if they have grieved those things, I get replies like, “I didn’t know I needed to.” That’s because there are two predominant lies about grief I constantly come up against – that time will heal pain and that you only grieve death.

New York pastor Pete Scazzero claims, “A failure to appreciate the Biblical place of feelings within our larger Christian lives has done extensive damage, keeping free people in Christ in slavery.” I would go further to suggest that failing to understand how our minds work while also ignoring, spiritualising or demonising every problem or struggle we go through, has meant that far too many Christians never get free of addictions, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem or insecurity, relationship issues, sexual struggles and more.

This is not to say we’re not in a spiritual battle as Christians, however. After all, 2 Corinthians claims that, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world…they have divine power to demolish strongholds…” (10:4). Yet what kind of strongholds does Paul say we are taking down? “…arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (10:5).

In my role as a counsellor, I have been helping clients take their thoughts captive for more than a decade now. In some ways, this field chose me. In my twenties, a combination of counselling, deliverance, great mentors, loads of books and conferences, fasting, prayer ministry and a huge amount of time journaling and talking with God healed me from a large fear of rejection, patches of depression and anxiety, and struggles with belonging, worth and identity. The transformation from insecure, sad, depressed and anxious to stable, hope-filled, optimistic and peaceful was so incredibly liberating I felt compelled to pass that on to others. In the process, my life has become a testimony to the claim of 2 Corinthians, that “God is the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our tribulations so that with the comfort we have received we may comfort others” (1:3-4).

The Hunger For Change

It saddens me how many people live with ongoing emotional and mental pain. I suspect this is sometimes due to a lack of motivation, sometimes a lack of hope for change, and sometimes a fear of what healing will require. Often it’s because they don’t know how to change. Yet there is such a hunger for change!

A case in point: this year my home church, Grace Vineyard in Christchurch, decided to focus on mental health for a month. They named it ‘Battle of the Mind,’ promoted it for some weeks prior, then paired a month of sermons, testimonies and panels on mental health with a home-group DVD resource my husband and I developed called “Soul Talk” which covers four topics: burnout, grief, anxiety and depression. The results were astounding. The number of home-groups jumped from 70 to 130. The church had the highest attendance during that month that it has ever had in its 17-year history. People opened up in their groups in ways and about things they had never shared before. Large numbers of people signed up for counselling. And a whole lot of non-Christians attended both home-groups and church services, many deciding to follow Jesus as a result.

People want answers to the pain they are in. And all too often, if they don’t get them at church, they may not only give up on church but often God too, deciding he doesn’t care about their depression, anxiety or addiction. What could be more tragic, considering how greatly God loves and wants to heal them? After all, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1).

How can we be set free?

Jesus himself stated that “the truth will set [us] free.” But how exactly does it work? How does God heal through counselling, through psychology?

It starts by working out where our thinking doesn’t align with God’s perspective, his viewpoint, his reality. As children and teenagers, we spend considerable time trying to make sense of how the world works. We look for answers to questions like, “How do I get people to like me?” “How do I fix conflict?” “What do I do if someone hurts me?” “What’s romance and sex all about?” and “What do I do about pain and injustice?” The conclusions we reach are usually a combination of our family’s beliefs and role modelling; the influence on us of peers, society, church, our culture and others’ beliefs; and trauma. One of the problems with this is that children are often good recorders but poor interpreters of what happens to and around them, meaning we often reach faulty conclusions; what Christian psychologist William Backus calls ‘misbeliefs’.

Ideas like:

My worth comes from being liked, from my performance, from my looks or from how smart I am. It’s safer not to trust others; that way you can’t get hurt. My choices are crucial, so I need to agonise over them. I am responsible to make/keep others happy.

Interestingly, these ideas don’t tend to be my clients’ presenting issues. They usually come because of the fruit of these beliefs: insecurity, performance anxiety and burnout, because their worth is in their performance; relationship issues because they don’t know how to do trust wisely; anxiety because they’re ‘crucialising’ so much they’re stuck; exhaustion, frustration and resentment because they’re trying to fix other people’s problems and it’s not working. My job is to listen, understand, empathise, then help them go deeper to understand the roots of these issues.

Once we know what the misbelief is, the next step is to challenge it with the truth, with God’s perspective.

Our value is actually based on how God sees us, on being his children, not on how well we perform or how popular, attractive or smart we are. Rather than writing people off when they hurt us, we need to understand that everyone can be trusted in some areas but no one is trustworthy everywhere. We can set our expectations of others accordingly. Our choices aren’t crucial because God can always help us course-correct at any point if we don’t like the outcome of a choice we’ve made. My responsibility is how I behave towards others. Their response to that is their responsibility.

The neuroscientists say it takes three weeks to create a new pathway in our brains – a new way of thinking. To establish that pathway, we have to focus on the truth instead of continuing to feed the lie by listening to or acting on it. We have to think about the truth, look for evidence to back it up, act on it and remind ourselves of it continually until it becomes our new normal way of thinking. We have to do with the new, healthy belief what we originally did with the old, unhealthy belief -reinforce it over time.

And if we persevere, eventually we will be transformed by the renewing of our minds, so we can come to know and understand the way God thinks – his desires for us and for the world (Romans 12:2).

Questions for Discussion

What do the following scriptures seem to say about mental health? Ephesians 4:23, Philippians 4:8, Proverbs 28:26, 2 Timothy 1:7, Isaiah 1:18 What do different biblical characters reveal about mental health? Or what do these biblical characters teach us about mental health? King David? Jesus? Paul? Moses? What kinds of messages have you received about counselling/mental health in the churches you have attended throughout your life? How helpful/unhelpful have they been? Do you agree/disagree? Why?

Belinda and her husband, Matt, are presenters of a course called Soul Tour, an intensive program that aims to equip young adults to better understand their own human mind, emotions and behavior. To learn more about what Soul Tour is, click HERE.

They also offer some fantastic video content called “Soul Talk” which delves into topics like burnout, depression, grief and more. To have a look at these videos, click HERE. And of course you can find them on social media on Facebook and Instagram.

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 the physical copy, feel free to email us at office@nzcms.org.nz or call us on 03 377 2222. 

The Spiritual Battles, Here and Now (Intermission – Issue 36)

Posted on

The following stories are from those in New Zealand and all around the world who are aware of and have been fighting spiritual battles recently. Ephesians 6:12 says

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

My purpose for collecting and sharing these stories is so that you become aware that this spiritual battle is very real. And I believe that God wants more of us to become aware of this so that we can begin to learn how to fight against “the spiritual forces of evil” for the extension of his Kingdom. 

Jonathan Hicks – CMS Mission Partner in Solomon Islands

“The Song”

Parents in Melanesia face lifelong liability for their children’s actions. Silas and Aiye’s son has a sexual addiction. Already in significant debt, the couple is broadsided by a series of compensation claims from families of several young women. One family threatens violence. Ashamed to ask their community to help them with their expenses, the parents are paralysed. Then Silas comes to our house telling us that Aiye has gone missing for a whole day. As evening sets in, we pray that God will bring her safely home.

After dark, she arrives at our house: “When I heard about my son this morning, my heart became like a stone. I wandered in the bush until evening. I came to a tall cliff. I stood there on the edge of it, imagining myself falling down. Then a bird flew over me and sang brightly. My heart felt something again. The light came in. I woke as if from sleep and walked home.” We had prayed with Silas fifteen minutes earlier. The place where she was standing? A fifteen-minute walk from the village.

“A Warrior Spirit”

Melanesian priests often begin their training with significant spiritual baggage. Sometimes they have invited evil spirits into their lives to give them more spiritual authority. Sometimes this was done for them at birth. In May 2018, the Lord made it clear to me and Andrew that we needed to confront his fellow student because he had a very powerful devil-spirit. The student was convicted by our message and agreed to meet at the school chapel to pray for deliverance.

During the deliverance, we realised we were confronting a warrior spirit that had caused the death of several people before. Surprisingly, this realisation caused absolutely no fear at all. As we prayed for him, I was aware only that we were being helped by the Prince of Peace. Andrew – who has a gift of discernment – said he saw a figure dressed in white standing above the two of us. The Lord answered our prayer and the evil spirit left our friend. When it had gone, the student did two things he had never done before. He wept – his wife of thirty years had never heard him do this – and he asked to be re-named. We anointed him and he received the name of a great priest-king from the Old Testament. 

 

Peter – Vicar in Christchurch at Halswell-Prebbleton parish and Archbishop’s Commissary

“A Story from Christchurch”

As a vicar or minister of the Gospel, you get called on to do some pretty strange things every now and then.

About a month ago, the Cathedral staff fielded a call from a man who was convinced his house was haunted. Strange things were happening, and he was hearing voices urging him to kill himself. More seriously, his adult son living with him had, in fact, attempted suicide. He wanted “the bishop” to come and exorcise his house. So in due course, Mark Barlow and I visited a state house on the east side of Christchurch.

Listening to his story, it would have been easy to dismiss it as schizophrenia or something similar – except  for one thing. He said that because he was so scared, he had called on the name of Jesus, and the voices and evil presences left him alone “but still hung around.” He was impressed and so started reading an old Gideon’s Bible he found.   While he was reading it, he was left in peace. Even more impressed, he started attending a church. His problem was he couldn’t keep speaking the name of Jesus, and he couldn’t read the Bible all day. He wanted the evil out of his house.

Mark and I went from room to room and in the name and authority of Jesus commanded whatever evil beings were in the room to leave. Then we asked the Lord to wash the room clean and blessed it with water. In the son’s room, we also prayed for the son’s recovery and prayed with the man himself. We led him to commit his life to Jesus, cast out the spirits that were in him and encouraged him to continue attending church and join a group where he could be discipled. The wonderful thing was that not only was the house a different place, but he was also a different person when we left – even his voice had changed. He was so grateful.

 

Katie – CMS Mission Partner in Spain

“The Neighbourhood”

The man entered the second-hand clothes shop regularly. We knew he was a witch because he had mentioned it before. There’s another man who walks past the shop with his hood up and clasping a symbolical necklace as he speaks words over the suburb. Yet another shop has opened close by that is full, like all the rest, of objects, bottles and cards that can be used to call on the spiritual world. A fellow painter in my art class talks about someone who can come and “clean” your house of spirits.  

In Europe, we too are in a spiritual battle from internal and overseas influences. Our deepest longing is that people can be set free from this oppressive spiritual bondage and know true freedom in Christ. So, we are moved to pray and to intercede.     

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people” (Ephesians 6:18).

 

Andy Miller – CMS Mission Partner in Costa Rica

“The Timing Was the Givaway…”

We have been in Costa Rica for two months now and we had been here a week when my wife Shona was admitted to hospital for five days with acute diverticulitis (you can Google it!). I know that we are in a fallen world and we can’t give the enemy credit for all sickness, however the timing was the giveaway.  

We started the day taking Shona for a doctor’s appointment at 9:30am as she had a sore stomach. Twelve hours later, after blood tests, ultra sound, more blood tests, a lot of waiting/ insurance negotiation and a CAT scan, she was finally given a bed at 9pm. Essentially, if you wanted to plan something that would be the most disruptive for our lives at this stage – this would be it! Plus, we have three children who felt very anxious as they are in a new country, new school, with a new language and Mummy is in hospital.  

As it happened, we decided to relax and trust in the Lord and enjoy spending time together. We hadn’t had a whole day together, child-free, since our wedding anniversary. It was a hard day. However, we decided not to be afraid or discouraged and spoke lovingly to each other. This whole experience with the ongoing tests has made us slow down and put each other and family first. As we put our trust in the Lord and reach out for prayer and help, then we see what the enemy intended for evil turned around for good and a testimony of his love and peace invading our circumstances. 

Note from the Editor (Intermission – Issue 36)

Posted on

NZCMS publishes a magazine called Intermission four times a year. Among other things it addresses missions work from a variety of angles, inspiring and encouraging individuals, small groups and churches all over New Zealand. This month we will be publishing our 36th Issue titled “Are you prepared for battle?”

Harrison Ford says the following in a movie called “42”.

“Your enemy will be out in force and you cannot meet him on his own low ground.” The film is about Jackie Robinson, the first African American baseball player to play in an all-white team and an all-white league. It’s an incredible movie and it paints the picture of how brutal, vicious and conniving the ‘powers that be’ were in trying to stop Jackie from playing the sport he loved

But Ford’s character trains Jackie how to deal with his enemies’ attacks. He tells him to respond differently. Not react to a nasty comment with one of his own. Not to punch back when an opposing player strikes him. But to flip it. To change lanes. Switch gears. He taught him to come back at his opposition with something they couldn’t respond to.

In this issue of Intermission, we will be talking about spiritual warfare and the different fields of battle that this war takes place in. There are some serious topics here. But how often can we be drawn into the depths of seriousness? The muddy waters of sombreness and gloom? And yes, there is space for these feelings. Jesus never ignored them. But the key is that he never let them overwhelm him. When the enemy tried to force exaggerated gravity and despair upon him, he changed gears. He told a story. Made a joke. Shocked the crowd. Forced the devil into silence with something his enemy couldn’t respond to. Friends, we don’t meet our foe on his own low ground. 

That’s why we chose this particular front cover for this month’s issue of Intermission. It’s funny. It’s light. It’s quirky. And I believe when Nehemiah wrote, “The joy of the Lord is your strength!” he actually meant it. So, as we come to read the following articles in the coming weeks, let’s remember that our enemy Satan has no joy. And he certainly doesn’t know how to respond to laughter when he does everything he possibly can to get us to cry.

Below is the list of authors and that have written for us to explore this topic of ‘spiritual warfare’. I pray that they inspire, equip and empower you to go forward into the daily battles that you face with prayer, passion and perspective. Because the war is out there, but Jesus has promised that we will have the victory!

“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take courage; I have overcome the world!” – John 16:33.

 

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles and contexts, the Intermission publication will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. 

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

 

Introducing Sam

Posted on

Kia Ora team.

Sam here, and I feel very privileged and excited to be a part of the NZCMS internship, heading over to Kenya and interning with Nairobi Chapel. I will be in Kenya for three months as I experience African culture and intern at the Nairobi Chapel Church. I will learn what it means to be an effective disciple of the Lord while being trained and taught in various areas of ministry.

I have lived in scarfie land (Dunedin) for the last 12 years, doing high school and then heading along to the university here. Currently, you will find me at Emerson’s brewery In Dunedin, helping brew and craft the finest beverages. However, where I find my joy and passion is not in beer but in following the Lord, experiencing him deeper and becoming more like him. I love people and hearing their stories. I also have a big passion for worship and love the closeness it brings me to the Lord. I hope that I will be able to further both of these passions throughout my internship.

The reason for Africa and an NZCMS internship? Last year I felt a very strong calling that the Lord was saying I needed to surrender and give up my pride, time, skill, and money and to put him first. I’ve always loved experiencing new cultures, Africa seemed like the ideal place for this and God’s hand was on this decision.

I pray that my time in Nairobi will grow my relationship with the Lord and that I can be used to help and minister to others.

Finally, I pray that I will pass on what I learn and will be able to bring back the skills that I have gained to train and equip others. I’m really excited for what the future holds and what the Lord has in store for me.

Manaaki Mission Motivations: The Power of Hospitality (Intermission – Issue 35)

Posted on

What Aotearoa New Zealand’s bi-cultural journey can teach us about our mission among the nations.

Māori culture is a hospitality culture. We have a whakataukī (proverb), He tangata takahi manuhiri, he marae puehu — If people abuse or disregard their guests, their marae will be dusty. There is a play on words here with reference to the marae. It could refer to the marae ātea, the public forum or open area in front of the wharenui (meeting house) where visitors are met in a pōwhiri (welcoming protocol), but it is more properly understood as a verb to mean being generous or hospitable. Their hospitality will be dusty. In other words, shameful.

Integrated Foundations

In order to understand something of the Māori perspective of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the intercultural responsibilities of each party to that covenant, we need to appreciate some of the kaupapa (foundational values) of te ao Māori (the way Māori view the world) and its resulting priorities.

Culture is a complex concept. For Māori, cultural values are deeply integrated with each other and inseparable, making it impossible to discuss one aspect without inferring its relationship with our entire way of understanding the world. A life essence permeates it all, connecting all things to each other. Christians must not dismiss this view as pagan, animist or pantheist. Those terms are just modern Western constructs. No, Christians should readily attest to the life essence of all things, rooted in the very story of creation itself, a result of the utterance of the Word (John 1:4) and reverberating with Christ, in whom all things hold together (Col 1:17).

To develop healthy intercultural relationships from and within Aotearoa New Zealand it is helpful to understand the genesis of our bicultural foundation. To understand our bicultural foundation we need to comprehend our covenantal obligations under the Tiriti o Waitangi. To comprehend the intention of Te Tiriti we need to appreciate how Māori view hospitality (marae). To appreciate the values of hospitality for Māori we need to grasp the underlying concept of manaaki. Grasping manaaki will also help us better work out our participation in God’s mission in this world since Christ is the ultimate manifestation of manaaki.

Reinforcing Mana 

Māori concepts have many shades of meaning depending on the context in which they are used. Manaaki is one such concept-word. The Māori Bible translates as manaaki Hebrew words like berakah and the Greek eulogia (both translated as “blessing” in English). In my doctoral research, manaaki was explained to me by Māori Christian research participants as, “to āki (encourage or lift up) the mana (esteem, respect, honour, life essence) of another”.

Mana is core to understanding mana|āki and it is grossly underappreciated in our common usage. We could argue that mana is one of a handful of reinforcing rods that run through the foundations of a Māori view of the world. To see mana as merely honour or respect is to treat it very superficially. We do not have sufficient space here to do justice to the complex spiritual roots beneath the surface that emerge as mana. Suffice it to say, it is deeply compatible with a Biblical view of reality being created by God’s Word and breath.

Mana is the evidence in a person of their life essence and spiritual virtues. Pākehā would call it a person’s psycho-emotional make-up, preferences, strengths, and talents. Mana is a person’s charisma in the spiritual sense—our divine grace. Mana is the manifest evidence of all these things at work through all that a person is and does in relationship with others. For Māori, and no doubt many other tribe-oriented societies, a person’s mana is recognised by their community and ascribed to the person by the community—you cannot claim it for yourself. You can do things that affect the community and lose mana and you can do things for the community and gain mana. The more mana you are recognised for, the higher standing you have in the community. Mana is therefore relational currency, and a highly prized and defended treasure it is at that.

A Platform For Many

And so we come to Te Tiriti. There is no doubt in my mind that our Māori forebears understood and signed Te Tiriti as an act of manaaki. As a relationship-forming protocol. They extended hospitality to the British Crown on a national level, viewing the signing of Te Tiriti in a similar way that a hongi (nose press) seals the relationship at a pōwhiri on a marae. Māori leaders elevated the mana of the British visitors by extending them hospitality, allowing all those represented by the authority of the Crown to come in and treat the land as their home (but without ownership, for that was largely a foreign concept to Māori at the time). The offer of co-residence came with full expectation that the new settlers would do so guided by the ethics of the tangatawhenua (people of the land), just as you would expect to do on a marae. The British clearly did not see things the same way and used their mana against the people of the land, thereby losing mana in the eyes of Māori.

Most of us are well aware of how the relationship went bad. My aim is to emphasize why the relationship was formed in the first place. It was an act of generosity and hospitality, NOT an act of surrender in the face of a greater power. In the creation of the (enduring) covenant we know as Te Tiriti o Waitangi we have an agreement between two peoples: the tangatawhenua and the British Crown. That is why we call the relationship a bi-cultural one, but this is actually inappropriate terminology because the British Crown represents many cultures. Even in 1840, when Te Tiriti was covenanted, the British Empire ‘represented’ the Australian, Canadian, Indian, East and Southern African, and some Middle Eastern, Asian and Pacific Island indigenous peoples. How much our Māori Chiefs understood about the reach of the British Empire we cannot know, but they knew Queen Victoria was the head of a very large, multi-cultural domain. Te Tiriti therefore included all who would come under the auspices and rule of that empire, as permitted by the Queen’s delegated authority here—the Government.

The Government of Aotearoa New Zealand now represents the Crown in extending permission for migrants to come and settle in our land. To an extent, this is the Government’s right under Te Tiriti. Te Tiriti allowed them to govern and hold rule of law over those entering the land on the basis of the hospitality of the Crown. Māori were to retain their own sovereignty and co-reside in the land with a rule of law compatible with the Crown’s. But we all know how that has worked out in reality to date.

A Foundation To Build On

Māori may have had our hospitality abused by the Government and its settlers but that does not dismiss the power of hospitality as a deeply spiritual discipline. Christ had His hospitality abused by Jewish powers and Roman law as He held out an invitation to enter His Kingdom. As the Father sent the Son, so we are sent into the world (John 18:18) to extend Kingdom hospitality to those willing to come in. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to provide the very best manaaki you can to those seeking a place of peace where they can fully be who God has made them to be. This is our intercultural responsibility under Christ’s New Covenant. We must not let Jesus find our marae dusty. (Philippians 2:1-11)

Questions To Consider

How willing are you to extend hospitality to a stranger and open your home to them? What motivates you most when facing a stranger: fear of being abused, or the desire to esteem others in love, regardless of the potential cost? In what ways would mission ventures as we know them need to change for us to shift from condescension (imposing ourselves to give something we feel they lack) to mutuality (interdependent development)?

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles and contexts, the Intermission publication will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. 

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

The stories of those who come to us (Intermission – Issue 35)

Posted on

There is a need literally three metres outside the doors of our church. Every day hundreds of students walk past. So many have come so far to be here but they don’t seem to have anyone who cares about them. They fall into a world where there is only a lecture theatre, a shoebox apartment and the internet.

I’ve always admired how international students can take the risk (and expense) of leaving their home, family, friends and everything they know. They are young and come to better themselves in a place where everything is new and different – people, culture, food and even simply trying to communicate are all things they need to get used to and learn.

Sometimes the pressure can be intense. Tim, a successful Chinese honours student we know, was the only one from his village who had ever gone to university. Tim’s study cost so much and was so important that his father back home decided not to tell him he was dying of cancer. By the end of the year, it was too late and Tim’s father was gone.  The same thing happened for a dying brother of a young Iranian postgraduate student. I know an Indian student whose parents sold their house to get him here.

You get the idea of the sacrifices many make to be here in New Zealand. And you can begin to understand that there are cultures that think and do things differently to the way Kiwis do. In that difference, we can find the joy of intercultural engagement in Christ. I don’t believe Jesus is interested in us either conforming others to our image or living in our own separate worlds like marbles in a bag – in the same place but completely disconnected. I believe scripture affirms that while we are made distinctively within our own cultures, those worlds are made to overlap to the glory of God and the benefit of all.

The results of engagement

St Paul’s is a central city Auckland church, situated between two universities on one side and student accommodation blocks on the other. We tried not to overthink what we saw. We prayed and decided to find a day to open the doors of the church, invite people in and do a simple meal of soup and cheese toasties.

Our small volunteer leader’s group talked to others and the team grew. Six years after opening the doors, we have a leadership team of around 25 people from at least 8 different Auckland churches. On a normal Wednesday lunch, around 120 people come through the doors. People from China, Iran, India, Japan, Colombia, Chile, Indonesia, Nigeria, Rwanda and Russia gather to eat and meet informally. 

We always pray that we can make known the love of Jesus, whether it’s by making a sandwich, sharing a smile or letting someone know the good news. Over time, many have come into contact with a group who think Jesus is real and can be trusted in real life. Intercultural connection in Christ is not rarefied air for specialists. It is basic human kindness for those who are guests in our country. We help with CV’s, give people lifts, teach English and piano, go tramping and skiing. We make good friends. Sometimes it’s hard on the heart as most eventually return home. But some take a new faith in Jesus back with them!

Needless to say, we’ve had some pretty significant disappointments and failures along the way. But we kept going. Now, in addition to the meals we provide, around 25 people regularly come to a weekly pizza and Bible study night we run. We let people look at the Bible for themselves and ask them open questions to enable them to engage. We pray. A core group of people have put their faith in Jesus and want to grow. We are currently planning our first discipleship weekend. They will be the leaders in future.

Here are some comments I’d like to finish with. As well as love for Jesus and neighbour, I think there are some key ideas underlying what we do.

Key ideas to consider

Dignity:

The person God puts in front of me is a human being with his or her own story, loves, dreams, fears and challenges. Faltering English doesn’t change that. Let’s not treat people like children and pat them on the head simply because New Zealand is new to them.

Understanding:

I need to be patient and listen and learn to see the world through other eyes. Interaction with different cultures brings strange worlds of ideas, behaviours and foods that may initially make no sense or even repel me. It might make me impatient. But without that understanding of the other world, I will introduce someone to the saviour of only my world and culture. The real world of the one I am sharing with will remain largely untouched. If I persevere in listening to the person God has put in front of me I might be able to see past the strange symbols and concepts and come to appreciate what they understand a person to be, and how they are related to both their family and the unseen world. Finally, they may begin to let me into the dark places of their world – things that make them ashamed, anxious or despairing.

Enriching:

When I am patient and listening and understanding, I will begin to see the Lord and Saviour of the other person’s world. I will see Jesus in a new way I’d never seen before as He meets the needs and aspirations of that person. I will begin to worship and proclaim Jesus in a new and fuller way in terms I’m only just beginning to understand. The Lord will have led me into a fuller and deeper worship of Him through an intercultural engagement with someone who has become my brother or sister. That is why we need intercultural engagement. 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles and contexts, the Intermission publication will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. 

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

What is Intercultural Engagement? (Intermission – Issue 35)

Posted on

I am partial to a good Sri Lankan curry – and I’m slowly learning how to make them. I line my curry leaves, cumin, cardamom, chilli, cinnamon and mustard seeds up on the bench. I grind and mix them with the other ingredients and then simmer them all together. Finally – and often salivating from inhaling the aroma – it’s time to eat. Delicious!

 What is Intercultural engagement?

Intercultural engagement is a bit like the spices in a good curry. It’s incredible how a small amount of any spice can add flavour to an entire dish. But a concoction of spices simmered together can produce an incredible flavour; one with a richness and depth that no single spice can produce. It’s still possible to pick out the distinct notes of each spice. If anything, the contrast with the other spices complements and enhances their flavour. Together, they have been transformed into something else.

All analogies have limitations – and this one is no different – but, I think it does help to explain what we mean by intercultural engagement. Culture is something to be celebrated. Intercultural engagement recognises and honours the differences and commonalities between cultures, and values the contribution of each culture. Intercultural engagement takes place through respectful, authentic interactions that allow each person to be shaped by the others and in the process each is transformed to produce a depth and richness that wouldn’t be possible without the “other.’’ It isn’t a dilution of culture. In the same way that “iron sharpens iron”, intercultural engagement helps to draw out the best of every culture while making us more aware of our own cultural blind spots so that everyone benefits from the gifts that each has to contribute.

What about multicultural or cross-cultural?

We often find ourselves in multicultural or cross-cultural situations. Multicultural situations are an important first step that can provide the basis for intercultural engagement to flourish. Multiculturalism itself doesn’t require any interaction between different cultures. It simply means that there are multiple cultures present and acknowledges the diversity between them. In other words, all the spices are lined up on the bench but they haven’t actually been combined together…yet.

Likewise, done well, cross-cultural engagement becomes intercultural engagement. The term cross-cultural can sometimes reinforce an ‘us’ as the ‘givers’ and ‘them’ as the ‘receivers’ attitude. It can be hard where we are in the majority, or in positions of privilege or power to receive the gifts that others have to offer and for us to allow our own way of being and doing to be indelibly changed in the process. Cross-cultural engagement doesn’t have to be that way! Interculturality recognises reciprocity. No single culture is the ‘norm’; every culture is both giver and recipient.

A biblical analogy

Perhaps the best and most well-known biblical analogy for intercultural engagement is the image of the Body of Christ in 1 Corinthians. The church itself is meant to be the ultimate expression of intercultural engagement! The church is the united body of Christ where the difference inherent to each part of the body is essential to the functioning of the whole body. Each part must share a life-in-mutuality and solidarity with others, ensuring care, honour and protection of the most marginalised. It is this body that is the lived expression of unity in Christ.

When our own identity is founded in Christ, we aren’t defensive about our own inadequacies. Nor are we threatened by difference. Instead, we embrace ‘others’ as fearfully and wonderfully made. It’s only once we acknowledge the essential part of each member of the Body that we can flourish, growing into the fullness of Christ. God’s mission is to reconcile all things to one another and himself and the church, as Christ’s body, is meant to be a witness to all of humanity of the reconciling love and grace of God. An intercultural church is good news to a world fractured along cultural divides!

Using our imagination

What might an intercultural church look like? Intercultural engagement is dependent on relationship. Like the spices mixing together, or the parts of the body working together, it is the interdependent relationship that forms an intercultural community. Relationship is one of the best places to discover others’ strengths and gifts (and our own inadequacies and blind spots). We cannot be satisfied with being multicultural or cross-cultural in our church contexts or in the way we do mission. We have to get close enough to those who are different from us for authentic, reciprocal relationships to form.

Imagine a church where everyone’s gifts were known and utilised and where those with power and privilege empowered those from minority groups. Maybe there would be a roster of preachers from diverse cultural contexts. Maybe different languages would regularly be used for scripture readings and prayers. Maybe worship would be led by a variety of people using the style and music from their own cultural background. Maybe leadership would increasingly reflect the diversity within the church. Imagine this church engaging ‘interculturally’ in its local context. People from different cultural backgrounds would know that they are welcome and that this church, Christ’s body, is a place where they have value, can belong and can contribute because of, rather than in spite of, their differences.

Final thoughts

As the Body of Christ, we must learn how to engage interculturally within the church and in our communities. Like a good curry, it will require some simmering for the flavours to develop – we will need love, grace, patience and perseverance. But as we allow ourselves to be transformed into the fullness of Christ, the end result promises to be the best that God has for us. 

Questions to consider:

What might be some steps that can help a church community move towards becoming intercultural? How do you personally identify yourself culturally? Where are you from? What are the cultural influences that have shaped you? How can you learn from those who are culturally different from you in your context? How can you encourage them to use their gifts?

Recommended resources for further reading 

Dan Sheffield, The Multicultural Leader: Developing a Catholic Personality, Clements Publishing, 2005

Jay Ruka, Huia Come Home, 2007

Mark Lau and Juan F. Martinez, Churches, Cultures and Leadership, IVP: Illinois, 2011

Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace, Abingdon Press, 1996

Rosemary Dewerse, Breaking Calabashes, MediaCom Education Inc., 2013

Sandra Maria Van Opstal, The Next Worship: Glorifying God in a Diverse World, IVP, 2016

Soon-Chan Rah, Many Colours: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church, Moody Publishers, 2010

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles and contexts, each edition of the Intermission magazine will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. 

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