#NZCMS

Reclaiming the Discipleship Roots of CMS (Issue 24)

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Two thousand years ago the world’s true ruler came declaring that the Kingdom of God was at hand. He explained – and demonstrated – what that Kingdom looks like. He died for our sins and rose to inaugurate that Kingdom. But rather than continuing to gather followers and spread the Kingdom himself, he did something peculiar. He told his followers that they were the ones to continue his mission, and central to their mission was this thing called discipleship (Matthew 28:19).

Discipleship is central to mission. As Dallas Willard said, “The church is for discipleship, and discipleship is for the world.” But where does this group called CMS, the Church Missionary Society, fit into the picture?

To be honest, we’ve wondered that ourselves. We’ve wondered where we fit in and alongside the Kiwi Church. And we’ve been wondering how we can make discipleship central to who we are and how we operate.

Back to our roots

As it turns out, when CMS was launched over two hundred years ago, discipleship was already central to our vision, values, models and methods. So when we say we’re making discipleship central, we’re actually talking about reclaiming something of our original DNA. We’re reclaiming this same focus for a changing world and a new generation.

The early CMS didn’t just send people overseas. Joining CMS meant being committed to mission everywhere, whether in deepest Africa or the streets of London. And ‘local’ and ‘global’ weren’t seen as opposed, but two sides of a single coin. After all, can you really say you value God’s mission if you only care about your own neighbourhood or focus only on the other side of the world? That’s why the early CMS sent people from within the community to the farthest reaches, and why they fought the slave trade in England – Wilberforce was one of CMS’ founders you know.

To join CMS meant to be part of a missional community who were together learning what it meant to follow a missional God. And that’s what emerged in New Zealand in the 1940s. Young evangelicals from various churches, calling themselves the NZCMS League of Youth, started gathering to explore all things mission. A movement was born. Passion for mission and the Gospel resulted in many people coming to Christ or going deeper in their faith. And from among the community people were sent into the nations. The League eventually waned, but we hope to see a new movement with that same passion raised up, one that suits our post-modern, post-Christian context.

From Agency to Community

Today NZCMS is typically seen as being a mission agency. We may send people to other countries, but ‘agency’ isn’t the right word to describe us. We’re the Church Missionary Society. First and foremost, we’re supposed to be a society, a community centred on God and his mission. We’re not an organisation you support or a list of missionaries for the church wall, but a community you belong to – a community made up of people across different churches, united by a passion for local and global mission.

How should this look in the 21st century? To be perfectly honest, we don’t fully know yet. Yet we sense God is moving us from functioning like an agency to being a nation-wide missional community once again.

So maybe the question isn’t so much where we fit, but where you fit.

The answer is to become CMS, not just support CMS. Because CMS isn’t, at its core, an office or an agency. CMS is you. It’s you aligning yourself to God’s missional Kingdom purposes and joining others who are on that same journey. It’s about becoming part of a movement that reaches beyond your local efforts to the farthest corners of the earth – because mission here should inspire mission there, and vice versa.

We’re exploring what the Society across the nation could become, seeking to develop and nurture purposeful missional communities. How are we to pass on the rich missional heritage to the emerging generations? How can we invite those God leads us to journey with us in our missional engagement? Can we be a community from which people are sent? All across the country I meet young adults seeking missional-direction. The challenge is finding mentors and coaches willing to journey with and open their lives to these people. We desperately need ‘discipleship incubation centres,’ missional hubs and communities: homes, café groups, small gatherings and churches seeking to shape the next generation of mission workers.

We’ve already started reclaiming this emphasis on discipleship. We’ve launched an online ‘community’ that hopes to engage young adults in an on-going missional conversation (nzcms.org.nz/hashtag). We’ve re-invented our Haerenga Mission Internship as an apprenticeship, reclaiming discipleship through imitation by placing people serious about cross-cultural mission under an active missionary (nzcms.org.nz/haerenga). We’re developing resources to equip you in your local efforts (nzcms.org.nz/intermission). We’re finding ways to expand our regional efforts. And we’re preparing to launch a new initiative for anyone seeking intentional missional discipleship that integrates into their daily lives.

Friends, we’re enthused by the journey God has us on of re-discovering our discipleship roots. Rather than say ‘will you join us’, I want to say:  ‘How can we join you?’ That is, how can we partner with you to deepen and further your missional efforts? We want to resource you, encourage you, challenge and equip you to participate in mission-focused communities wherever you are, and in doing so see you flourish as the Community of Mission Service. I’m looking for key people who want to be equipped to support and network local groups that are seeking to be intentional about living missionally. You may be a NZCMS faithful, you might be discovering who NZCMS is for the first time. No matter your journey, we look forward to where God is leading us together.

To find out how we can partner in mission, email me at steve@nzcms.org.nz

 

For discussion

What would it mean for your group to belong to this ‘community of mission service’?

What do you think CMS could look like in 21st century New Zealand?

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of Intermission will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. Why not take up the challenge and start using Intermission in your community? For more information or to order copies click here.

The Jesus Model

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Now that I’m officially old, I’m coming to discover that this journey called faith really is all about Jesus. It may sound like a bit of a non-realisation, but I think it’s easy to forget that Jesus didn’t just do something for us. He showed us what a true human being could be, which is another way of saying he showed me how I can and should live. And, as it turns out, Jesus knew what he was doing when he made discipleship central to his strategy to transform the world and to expand his Kingdom. At it’s core, mission is all about discipleship.

The topic of discipleship is the focus of the latest edition of Intermission. We’ve got articles by Spanky, Bishop Justin Duckworth, some missionaries, ministry leaders in England (from 3dm), plus a couple from the CMS team – and we’re use a number of them as recent #NZCMS posts because they were just so good! If you don’t have a copy of the magazine, email me and I’ll send you as many as you need for your group, but for now I thought we’d start of exploration of the topic of discipleship with this brilliant video.

The video makes a pretty simple point: Jesus orientated his life around three simple principles or modes. He had time to spend with his Father, he had time to spend with his spiritual family, and he had time to spend engaging the world. If being a disciple is about becoming more like Jesus, then I’m supposed to be growing in these three areas – not just my favourite one or two. Imagine what would happen if we learned to find a balance between these three modes. Those we’re discipling – something we’re all involved in one way or another – would come to imitate us as we live out this balance. And those they disciple would do the same. And so on. We’d have masses of people who know how to connect with God, fellowship with and support one another, and reach out to the world.

 

THE MUSE

What stands out to you in the video?

 

THE MOVE

Which of the three areas are you weakest in? What steps can you make to grow in that area? And who are your going to grow with?

#NZCMS is all about exploring what it means to be God’s missional people in today’s world. Sign up for the emailer by filling in your email at the top of the page or join the discussion at the #NZCMS Facebook Group (and turn on ‘all notifications’ to stay in the loop!) 

Mall worship

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Whenever I head to the local shopping mall, it’s with a time bound purpose. One hour. Grab my usual park. Rush in through the side entrance. Pry off a trolley. Stuff it with groceries. Escape through the even smaller side entrance. Get out of there.

Yep, I’m a mum. So not so much time for indulging in a leisurely window shop. Last week I had half an hour to kill before dropping my daughter at the swimming pool. We popped into the same mall  to grab a quick after-school snack. Time for me wasn’t an issue today, and it was obviously not for many others at the mall.

We parked at the commercial end and elbowed through the main entrance – huge lofty doors, shiny floors, gleaming escalators, and seething with people. To the left the teenage girls clothing shop, to the right the denim shop, then the sports shoes, then the fashion shoes, the sports store, the electronics store, the Two Dollar Shop. Sale signs adorned them all. ‘Made in China’ screamed in my head. The corridor was full as the masses headed in their respective directions, passing the quiet stores, bumping into oncoming foot traffic, minimal eye contact, avoiding physical contact, and barely whispered apologies for getting in the way or bumping into anyone. A mass of strangers caught in the bright lights of the new temple. Worshipping the elusive icon of the dollars in their wallets, praying that the plastic will be accepted as an offering, and rewarded with the false hope that their offering will make them look better, stand out from the crowd, be more popular.

We found a snack in the food court, amongst the McDonalds, the takeaways and the greasies. The overpriced muffin that I could have baked at home and a caffeine fix (actually, I really needed that one!).

Our youth pastor will be holding youth group at this same shopping mall soon, and I wonder what they will discuss as they view it through a Christian filter. Will they discuss the value the of friendships built as youth shop together and snack together? Will they consider the origins of the products on the shelves? Will they spot the mothers on an outing with their babies and infants? The value of the stimulating a baby with bright lights and crowds versus sunlight and God’s creation? Are these people here spending with a purpose or buying to fill a void?

Where once a church was the focal point of a town or community, it seems it’s been replaced by the glistening shopping mall. There is so much there to choose from, but will it satisfy the longing in their hearts? As I head back to my pew next Sunday I shall put up a prayer for those who don’t have the fulfilment of Jesus in their hearts, and the family of Christ to support them when things are down. I’ll look at my brothers and sisters as we put out our hands together to receive communion and give thanks to God for his many bountiful gifts.

 

THE MUSE

Has an everyday experience ever become a moment of discovery like for Heather?

THE MOVE

It’s easy to think that our society has moved on from the ‘silly idolatry’ of the past. Visit a shopping mall on this Sunday, compare the entrance to ancient temples, and ask yourself: have we really escaped idolatry? What about you?

#NZCMS is all about exploring what it means to be God’s missional people in today’s world. Sign up for the emailer by filling in your email at the top of the page or join the discussion at the #NZCMS Facebook Group (and turn on ‘all notifications’ to stay in the loop!) 

 

Loving the ‘other’

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Today is 9/11! Rings a bell?

It’s 14 years since the September 11 coordinated attacks in the United States that killed nearly 3000 people. These orchestrated terrorist attacks sent shockwaves around the world, and the impact continues to be felt today.

When I travel through airports the security protocol remind me that things are not as they used to be prior to 9/11. In Kenya, I have to be screened using metals detectors even when going to church! Although these procedures make me feel inconvenienced, I’ve been reflecting on how I should respond as a Christian. I need to remember that although the world has been impacted by a few extremists seeking to do evil, good will always triumph!

I was encouraged by a remarkable tweet that an Imam, a Rabbi and a priest were holding a joint prayer session during the Sydney hostage siege at the end of last year. Rather than live in fear and self-preservation, I can devote my life and energy to doing good, loving others and seeking to share the hope I have in Jesus.

But how can I do this?

Recently, I listened to my minister Jay preach from Luke 6. He made a radical statement: “The thing that defines us as followers of Jesus is whom we are to love. It’s not enough to pray for our enemies, we need to act for their good.” Ouch!  That hit me hard and those words have not left me since. I have been reflecting on what it means for me to love my enemy or the ‘other.’

One of my struggles with loving my enemies is that I do have a heightened sense of justice for those who hurt me or others. But I’ve been reminded that vengeance is God’s, not mine! If I choose to hate, I am not much better than the extremists. Jesus came to love the world, including those who hate us. But what’s even more tragic is if I squander my  ability to provide hope to the world.

So I have been thinking about the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East & Europe due to Syrian refugees. The New Zealand government has made a decision to up the number of the refugees by taking an extra 600 people fleeing war in Syria. And the Church has responded by committing to welcome those refugees into our communities. But what will I do?

As one who has lived in Kenya and encountered first hand refugees from Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Somalia and South Sudan, I know that hospitality is something that makes a difference to refugees. It’s not enough to ask the government to more if I am not willing to go across the street and meet the ‘other’ and welcome them for a meal, ask them questions about their family or religion, share with them about life here, etc. My faith needs to be lived out. And it’s in this coal face that I grow and become transformed. So my family have hosted people from different cultures over the last few years and have been blessed greatly in the process.

As Paul says, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5:6).

 

THE MUSE

What’s your experience of loving the ‘other’ in our Kiwi context?

 

THE MOVE

At 9.11pm tonight (0r 11.09pm), and perhaps every night this week, could you ask God to bring an ‘other’ your way that you can show hospitality and kindness to.

 

#NZCMS is all about exploring what it means to be God’s missional people in today’s world. Sign up for the emailer by filling in your email at the top of the page or join the discussion at the #NZCMS Facebook Group (and turn on ‘all notifications’ to stay in the loop!) 

Following Your Rabbi (Issue 24)

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In my early 20s I led a team to India. Early on we were invited to a Bible study by an elder of the church we were working with. Kumar was a wrinkly old man who never left the house without a bright smile, but he wasn’t particularly charismatic. Arriving at the meeting, I was shocked to discover there was basically no space left in his large living room. It was packed with young people eager to hear God’s Word.

Afterwards I asked how he managed to gather such a group. Being a wise old man, he answered with a story. His house was directly opposite the Bishop’s residence and church offices. Years earlier a church official had moved in. From his comfortable, second story window he could see young people streaming in and out of Kumar’s home virtually all the time. Puzzled, he visited and asked why people were visiting a regular church elder instead of him. Kumar’s response was both brilliant and blunt: “With you it’s all structure and hierarchy. But with me, they know my door is always open. You rely on your rank and status to attract people to yourself. I just seek to live out the Gospel.”

Discipleship in a nutshell

Jesus called twelve disciples to follow him. They weren’t there just to listen to his teachings (Matthew 5:1), to help him out (Matthew 10) or to act as his self-appointed bodyguards (Matthew 19:13). In Jewish culture, you followed a rabbi to become like him, to do the things he did and to live as he lived in every way. That’s what being a disciple meant, and that’s what it means today: being people who are becoming like Jesus.

What is discipleship at the end of the day? It’s following your master. It’s looking like Jesus. It’s being Jesus to the world. As Dallas Willard said, a “disciple is who Jesus would be if he were you” – with your personality, skills, family, knowledge, culture.

But Jesus didn’t just call us to be disciples but to make disciples (not just converts!), and I don’t think that’s a role reserved for the elite. We’re all called to be disciple-makers. While it’s easy to overcomplicate, the core of disciple-making is actually beautifully simple: we’re to demonstrate what following Jesus looks like (1 Corinthians 11:1). Disciple-making isn’t about having enough knowledge. It’s not about being up to date with the latest discipleship techniques or models. It’s not about being a skilled teacher or having a charismatic personality. It’s about whether you’re living a life worth imitating.

And it’s not just about me as an individual. Try following Jesus alone. It doesn’t work! It’s not supposed to. That’s why Jesus gave the charter for his people’s way of life to a community (Matthew 5-7). Learning to follow Jesus is something we’re supposed to learn in community, not as islands. Likewise, people can only imitate me within a community because it’s in community that the way I interact with others is on show. (Try teaching someone to love one another without any others around!) Individually I can only tell people how to live – in community I can not only demonstrate it, but welcome people to participate in it. But when someone joins your community will they see and learn how to follow Jesus, or will they just learn how to run a good church service?

What did Kumar do? He opened up his life so people could imitate him as he sought to imitate Christ. It’s easier to rely on rank, status or programmes… but these things don’t make disciples.

For Discussion

Jesus’ disciples were with him, learning to be like him. Is there space in your life for people to be ‘with you’ like the young people with Kumar?

In what ways can people see Jesus in the way you live? What would it look like if Jesus had your personality, skills, family, knowledge and culture?

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of Intermission will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. Why not take up the challenge and start using Intermission in your community? For more information or to order copies click here.

Space for people to cross the line

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Sam Harvey, pastor of Grace Vineyard’s Beach Campus in Christchurch, recently spoke at a Laidlaw College class on evangelism. The following is an excerpt from one of the points he made.

The questions Sam was wrestling with are questions we all need to consider. In your church services, when is there an opportunity for people to cross the line and come to faith? How can we build a culture in our churches that reflects a desire to see people come to know Jesus?

This is what Sam had to say:

Church culture: This for me is a big one when it comes to ‘How do we Proclaim the Gospel Today?’. I think this is something that needs to be restored to our church culture or encouraged in our church culture.

I felt really challenged this year as we were looking at this whole thing of evangelism. As a pastor I felt the Lord gently challenged me and said, “Sam, in your church services, when is there an opportunity for people to cross the line?” I’m passionate about helping people journey towards Christ (the first parts of the Engel Scale) and I’m all about discipling people, but when do I just give a moment for this to happen? Why don’t I? And the reason I don’t is because I’m scared about rejection, I’m scared about nothing happening, I’m scared that I’m going to look like a bit of a fool, I’m scared it’s going to be awkward. But I really felt challenged to do it.

So I decided that at the end of every service, regardless of what it’s on, I’m going to say “Hey, if you’re here today and you want to say yes to Jesus”… and then I’ll grab my little Alpha booklet which will talk about being sorry for the things I’ve done, please forgive me, I thank you for what you’ve done on the cross, please come in to my life, a little formula or whatever… and I’ll say, “If you want to pray that prayer with me, stick your hand up where you are at right now.” I’ve trained our section leaders in our church to watch for hands and go up to them after the service. And I said to our church that I’m going to ask people if they want to receive Jesus at the end of the sermon, and so you know, if you bring a friend to church, I’m going to be doing this every sermon. So I’ve been doing that over the last three or four months. And you know what? People were putting up their hands.

For me the challenge was the question: ‘when are we giving people the opportunity to cross the line – regularly, as part of our church culture?’ I got really really convicted about the fact that I wasn’t doing that in our church services. For me it was part and parcel of just going ‘I want to continue to build a culture in our church that reflects that heart to see people come to know Jesus.’ We may have all the theories in the world but in real terms, what does it look like? That’s the pastor part of me saying yeah the theory’s great, but what are we actually doing as a church?

 

THE MUSE

You may not be a pastor, but how does Sam’s perspective challenge you? Has your church fostered a culture where it’s natural to invite people to commit to following Jesus? If not, what would it take to change that?

 

THE MOVE

If you’re a church or youth group leader, this week ask yourself and your team what you can do to create space to help people ‘cross the line.’ If you’re not, talk to your church friends about how you can contribute to developing this sort of culture.

#NZCMS is all about exploring what it means to be God’s missional people in today’s world. Sign up for the emailer by filling in your email at the top of the page or join the discussion at the #NZCMS Facebook Group (and turn on ‘all notifications’ to stay in the loop!) 

Is fixing the Church the answer?

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The following is reblogged from ReKnew.com.

God has leveraged everything on the Church loving like Jesus loved, as outlined in our previous posts in this series. “By this the world will know you are my disciples,” Jesus said, “by your love” (Jn 13:35). By God’s own design, Christ-like love is supposed to be the proof that Jesus is real. In John 17 Jesus prayed that the community of his disciples would embody the perfect love of the Trinity so that the world would know he’d been sent by the Father (Jn 17:23). Think of the implications of this phrase, “so that.” Above all, we are to be known for the way we manifest the perfect love of the Trinity. We are to be known for our scandalous willingness to love the unlovable, even our enemies—even Islamic terrorists. Our lives are to be so unique that they raise the question in the minds of unbelievers that only accepting the reality of Jesus Christ can answer: namely, why do you love me and sacrifice for me the way you do?

But let us be completely honest. Is the Church consistently putting on display this Jesus-looking, Calvary-quality love? Which is to ask: Is the Church advancing the Kingdom of God? Ask yourself: Are many non-believers walking around wondering why we Christians sacrifice so much in service to them?

Consider that Jesus’ love attracted the vilest of sinners—the tax collectors and prostitutes—just as they were. Are the tax collectors and prostitutes of our day beating down our doors to hang out with us? Do they find that they experience a kind of love and non-judgmental acceptance when they hang out with us that they can’t experience anywhere else?

We don’t have anything close to the reputation Jesus had. If anything, we have the opposite reputation. Ask any random sampling of non-Christians what first comes to mind when you mention “evangelical “ or “born again” Christians. Does anyone for a moment think their first response would be “scandalous, sacrificial love”?

The one thing that matters, the deal breaker, the all-or-nothing of Kingdom life, the thing that God has leveraged everything on, is desperately missing in the Church. No heresy could possibly be worse! (Yet, oddly, never have the heresy hunters in the past or present gone after this heresy!)

What can we do about this catastrophic heresy? How can we infuse Calvary-like love into the Church? How can we transform the Church from a meaningless religious institution into the Kingdom of God?

I’ve come to believe that this is actually the wrong question to ask. The right question—and really the only question any of us need to answer—is this one: Am I myself willing to live in love as Christ loved me and gave his life for me?

This question is much more difficult than the question about how to fix the Church. I’d much rather worry about why the Church at large isn’t more loving. I’d much rather immerse myself in complex theological issues about the Kingdom. I’d much rather talk about the Kingdom than be confronted with the personal task of actually doing it.

The only question I need to answer, and the only question you need to answer, is not one you or I can settle in our heads. It can only be answered with our hearts on a moment-by-moment basis. It is this: Are we willing to love as Christ loved, right here and right now? Are we willing to die to ourselves and bleed for this person, and now for that person? We answer the question of whether we are Kingdom participants not once and for all, but with how we treat each and every person we meet, with every choice we make, with every breath, heartbeat and brain wave that is our life. The Kingdom question is always concrete and existential, never abstract or theoretical.

I’ve discovered that living in this commitment has freed me from my life-long proclivity to be cynical about the Church. As I remain fully devoted to the single task of receiving and replicating Christ’s love in the present moment—toward this person, and now toward that person—I simply don’t have mental or emotional space to worry about or even notice who else isn’t replicating Christ’s love. Fixing them, or fixing the Church, or fixing the world, is not my job.

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

 

THE MUSE

What do you think comes to mind for the average Kiwi when they’re hear the term (‘born again’) Christian? Why?

 

THE MOVE

What will you do to show calvary-like love to someone this weekend?

#NZCMS is all about exploring what it means to be God’s missional people in today’s world. Sign up for the emailer by filling in your email at the top of the page or join the discussion at the #NZCMS Facebook Group (and turn on ‘all notifications’ to stay in the loop!) 

Mustard Seed Actions

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The following has been reposted from Reconciled World. Read the original article by clicking here.

We are living in a world that is hostile to God and His Word. It says that you can be great and do big things with your own strength, and you don’t need God. People value and uphold the ‘strong,’ ‘big,’ and ‘fast.’ The world says that if you are not strong you will be defeated, if you are not big you are insignificant and if you are not fast you will be left behind. If you want to be successful, then words like ‘weak,’ ‘small,’ or ‘slow’ shouldn’t be in your vocabulary.

I often hear church’s leaders talking about their big plans, organizing big revival crusades and implementing big projects to impact their nation. These plans require big budgets and manpower that only a few big churches have available. The desire to be effective for the Lord in a big way is a great thing, but the problem is they seem to think the way the world thinks. They look down on small actions and are in danger of believing a lie that says, “Bigger is better.” I found it’s quite funny that whenever the world says something, the Bible says the opposite. Whatever the world despises, the Bible upholds. Actually, the Bible implies “smaller is better” and the beauty is that it will eventually lead to big things.

In Mark 4:26-32, Jesus used two parables of the mustard seeds to talk about His Kingdom. As He described it, the mustard seed is the smallest of all the seeds, but when sown in the ground it grows and becomes a big plant. The harvest surely comes because there is power in a small seed.

In one community, the first time people saw the church collecting garbage around the community, they asked what the church had done wrong to be punished by the government. They were surprised to find out that the church wanted to show God’s love to the community,  because they has always been told that the church is bad. Their attitude toward the church started to change when they continued to see how the church also cared for other things like education for children, hygiene practices, marriage and family. Now the church is no longer seen as manipulative but genuinely loving. They are no longer seen as spiritually-focused but as caring for the whole person. And these actions also change the way the church see themselves. They are now the giver instead of receiver. They are the head, not the tail. Through these Acts of Love, God has moved many communities out of poverty to the point that the national government noticed and sent a research team to investigate.

What’s wrong with doing ‘big?’ In and of itself, there’s nothing wrong. But it has potential to lead us to dishonor God by taking credit for ourselves. You remember well the story of God using Gideon to save Israel (Judges 6:11-7:25). After God showed them His signs that He would give the Midianites into their hand, Gideon and his men were ready for battle. But God said to him, “The people with you are too many,” and He instructed ways to shrink the army size from 22,000 to 300. Wait God! Isn’t bigger better in this situation? It’s war! Interestingly, the reason He gave is, “Lest Israel boast over me, saying ‘My own hand has saved me.’” By shrinking their army, God made sure that Israel knows it’s His power to bring victory and the glory belongs to Him. Certainly, bigger is not necessarily better!

Why do Mustard Seed Actions? It’s the principle of the Kingdom of God. You don’t have to be ‘big’ to be used by God because the power of God is revealed in smallness and, in the end, He receives all the glory.

 

THE MUSE

Have you ever felt you need to be doing ‘big things’ for God? In what ways can such thinking be good, and in what ways can it be harmful?

 

THE MOVE

Think about what ‘small things’ you can invest your time in this week that will show God’s love to those you meet.

 

What do cheese, toilet paper, milk, steak, shampoo and spinach have in common?

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Before you start on drawing up your spreadsheets and making comparative lists to find the common denominator in this question, let me put your questioning mind at ease: Plastic.

Perhaps it might seem an odd thing to find in common, but it’s nearly impossible to buy these products (and in fact most of our consumables) in New Zealand without purchasing plastic. Think about it. How do you get any form of meat in NZ without it wrapped plastic packaging? Own a farm you say? Well I can tell you that I’ve received farm meat before, and the butcher puts your prized animal in plastic bags.

I dare you to do a normal grocery shop and look at what isn’t wrapped plastic. Look in your rubbish bag before the week’s end.

Why are cheap fruit and veges almost always in plastic?

Why are so many products putting plastic around their cardboard packaging?

I started noticing the amount of plastic in my life, and it disturbed me. Why? Well, if you didn’t know or need convincing about the myriad of environmental and health problems linked to plastic then all me to direct you here, or here, or here, or here. Plus I believe in a God who created a world that was good, and he doesn’t like to see it groaning or people suffering because of the way in which we are destroying eco-systems.

So in an attempt to challenge myself about the plastic in my life, earlier this year I did something:

Not purchase anything in plastic for 3 whole weeks!!

I was doomed to fail.

But, I was determined to do it, or if I failed, prove my point twice-over about our consumerist dependence on a destructive material.

It was a journey. I was surprised how difficult it was and what I found most challenging, but was proud of my amazing plastic-free-finds along the way (like this toilet paper and these toothpaste tablets!). And I achieved my three weeks. But I couldn’t sustainably live plastic free for much longer.

 

What I learned:

Not buying plastic isn’t always the best option. Sometimes the not-plastic alternative is worse for the environment than plastic that is recyclable. As an example, Milk in Tetrapaks rather than the plastic milk bottles is a tricksy one; it looks like cardboard but it’s NOT CARDBOARD, nor recyclable. (I bought milk powder in an aluminium tin.) Any choice to live in a way that is not the easiest and most convenient for us means planning must be our best friend. Being caught ‘unawares’ when you run out of an essential item, or you leave your lunch at home (true story) makes going plastic free very difficult. I had to ask: Am I willing to go without food today for this cause? Going cold-turkey on plastic is tiring and impossible to sustain. I got somewhat fed-up with the battle by the time three weeks was up and was guiltily lazy about some purchases in the following month. Now I’ve had time to reflect, I’ve been able to take a slower more sustainable approach to keep up certain plastic-free purchasing habits and look for the next thing to try and change. People may not get it or call us crazy, others will be intrigued and encourage us along the journey. (Thanks to my hubby who got on board with the whole crazy scheme!) But it made me realise: it’s hard to make life changes big or small on our own. Having friends to journey with on whatever sustainable/ethical change we want to make is soooo encouraging. Plus surrounding yourself with the amazing amount of online support, resources and ideas like these guys was great! The other thing I found really fascinating about the plastic free adventure, is that it was exceptionally hard to do on a budget. I’m coming to the conclusion that organic or ethical shopping choices are a privilege of the wealthy. Hmmmm… Think on that.

 

I came to see that the bigger question behind all of this activity was of course:

Am I willing to change my lifestyle to live in a way that’s more sustainable and less destructive of God’s creation?

What is my responsibility in the global-ethical-sustainable challenges of our world as I seek to live a faithful life following Jesus? How can I make choices and orient my life in such a way that keeps me committed and challenged to living a Christian life – a life concerned less with myself and more with God’s concerns for our world, recognising my consumer choices affect the environment and other people.

How I live in big and small ways (words, deeds, and purchases) is a response to the God who loves me in abundance and leads me to radically consider the world as his world, and my place as a steward within that world.

Yes, I failed to live plastic free forever, but is the posture towards living with a concern for God’s creation more important than achieving the ‘next sustainable thing’?

 

THE MUSE

What might it mean for me to live in a way that’s more sustainable and less destructive for God’s creation?

 

THE MOVE

Identify one new habit you could introduce to live in a way that is less destructive to God’s creation. Make a plan for putting it into place!

When God doesn’t call us

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I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to chase God’s calling for me. Learning how to hear and interpret his voice. Taking the opportunities I feel God has placed in front of me. Continually seeking what’s next and being open to doing things outside of my comfort zone. There’s this wonderful joy and adventure in stepping out into the unknown, trusting that God will equip me, provide for me and give me the courage I need to fulfil what he’s called me to do. I love living a life open to God’s interception. There’s something both frightening yet exciting about it.

I had one of these crazy God-interception moments recently where I suddenly found myself in Hawaii working as a nanny. Had you asked me about it just a week earlier, I’d never have said that I’d end up there. My sense of adventure was totally tantalized and I was eager to see what this little two month excursion would hold. Because of this I had to put my study and other commitments back home on hold but I didn’t really mind because that’s what trusting God is, right!? Following him even if it doesn’t make complete sense.

I was amazed to see how God provided everything I needed in Hawaii, from my living expenses and flights right down to bedsheets, towels and clothes. (I had arrived there on the way home from a family holiday with almost nothing.) It was an incredible time of feeling like I was in the right place. I was where I was meant to be.

The family I was nannying for were doing a YWAM Discipleship Training School. Half way through they’d be going on an extended outreach to another part of the world and I was asked if I’d like to join one of these teams. It was exciting to consider what time for me as I looked at the opportunity of going to either the Philippines, Mexico, Uganda or Norway and England.

I spent much time praying and asking God where I was meant to go… but nothing. There was no word, no sign, no indication that I was to go to any of these places. My calling to Hawaii had been so clear but now I wasn’t feeling anything. It was hard to accept that God didn’t want me to go as I watched these people who had become family head out on new adventures.

Instead I returned home to New Zealand to begin study once more – a little disappointed but nonetheless excited to see family and friends again.

Less than a month after I returned, my Nana unexpectedly passed away. It was crazy to think I could’ve been in the Philippines or England. But I had come home and had made precious memories with her before she was gone. Memories and time I’d  missed out on had I not listened to God’s non-call and gone on outreach anyway. Home was where I was meant to be.

I must be a slow learner because God is constantly reminding me that his ways are better than mine. Why do I find it so hard to believe this and continuously want to do whatever it is that I want to do?

Although it’s important to recognise when God has called us to do something, I’m now learning it’s just as important to recognise when he’s not calling us.

For me, not being called ended up being just as important and significant as if I had been. It’s a hard and courageous thing to accept God’s non-callings but I know that God has a far better idea of what’s best for me than I do. It’s about following him even when it doesn’t make complete sense.

 

THE MUSE

What do you do when God tells you what to do? What do you do when he’s silent?

 

THE MOVE

Think up a practical way to submit your trust to God once again. And do it. Now.