NZCMS has always been an on the ground, sleeves rolled up, gritty, get in and get it done type of community. These “Impact Stories” from our Mission Partners are just a few examples of how the Holy Spirit continues to call our community, and us all, to participate in the Kingdom breaking out onto the earth in real and authentic ways. These stories have been taken from our Annual Report. Download the full report here. Nick and Tessa – Uganda It was nearly Christmas, but Emma was determined to launch remote Te-Olam Health Center before the new year rolled in. Te Olam was two hours away on terrible dirt roads, and after the long motorbike ride, Emma was delighted to find that the house was looking great. The floor was cemented, the rent contract signed, and the health centre was ready for launch.But Emma’s job wasn’t finished. On the ride home, God had something more important in-store. Or should I say, someone. The rest is in Emma’s own words. “As I was riding, I passed a boy on the road. Something just told me to stop, so I turned the motorbike around. The boy was 16 and was looking for transport to Gulu town. Boy: “How much can I give you to take me to town?” Emma: “No, it’s OK. I don’t need any money.” The boy was keen to talk. He used to attend a prayer group at school, and two years ago gave his life to Jesus. But soon after, he got a new group of friends who didn’t care about school or prayers and would instead sneak out of the boarding school to drink. Sometimes they would even stay out overnight, bribing the security guard not to tell the teachers. His parents had even been called to school three times to talk about his bad behaviour. He was going to meet those friends far from the village in Gulu town to have some drinks. I asked him what had changed? Why did he leave prayers? Why was he not taking school seriously? He wasn’t sure but had just followed what his friends were doing. We talked for the whole two-hour journey home about school, life, friends and faith. He really opened up, and it was an amazing conversation. When we reached the centre before I dropped him off, it seemed he had realised that his life had gone off track, and there was a better way. I asked him if he would consider changing his life path and if he would return to the God that brought him so much joy and motivation just one year ago? He said he would go to church at Christmas for sure and talk with his friends from prayer group again. He gave me his number, and I promised to call him in a month. Unfortunately, when I called the number, it didn’t go through. The phone was out of service. I still believe that conversation stirred something in his soul. I pray that he returned to the God who had so recently saved him.” Andy and Shona – Costa Rica Our local church has three seasons of 21-days of prayer and fasting every year. We follow this by launching our small groups and to encourage the congregation to join and or lead small groups using a bible study or hobby. The aim is to build a community and create a place for transformation. During the 21 days of prayer, we decided to hold a Monday morning prayer meeting on Facebook Live from 5:00 am-5:30 am. I did not expect the result we got. Over 30 people attended the live stream and, when we posted the recording onto Facebook, more than 200 watched through that day! Fast forward to January this year, and we again led the morning prayer meeting for 21 days on Facebook live. But this time, we challenged those present to step up and lead five other days in the week to have small groups running and praying all week. And immediately, we had the volunteers we needed! From February to May, our group grew to 20 people, with about six to nine turning up every day. By the middle of June, we had 13 leaders running prayer meetings every evening with 17-20 people turning up and new people appearing almost every day. We named these groups “Ora Primero” (Pray First). It has been such an empowering experience because, in the midst of so much sickness, death and joblessness, we have resources from heaven. Prayer doesn’t just inspire hope but we see God answer prayers in very personal ways. One way we’ve seen God answer our prayers has been the massive growth in our small groups that we mentioned at the beginning of this testimony. The church had, on average, 600 people attending two services the weekend before Covid-19 hit. But only 70 people were regularly attending seven small groups. Now we have 776 people filling 56 small groups, regularly committed and inviting their friends! We are amazed by the grace of God through a season of great hardship. Mission Partner L. serving in Pakistan Unexpected circumstances and lives opening up to God are among the places where God’s Kingdom was seen in 2020. From international to local partnership, lives have been impacted and changed. The following stories give you a glimpse of how. A student who recently wrote a reflection for his Leadership Certificate wrote the following. “I always heard or read about the epidemics in the past but never had any experience. It was such a huge lockdown. Everyone was shocked, scared and wanted to rescue their own life. But suddenly, people came out to help those who started starving. The same happened in my life. After staying home for a month, I thought, “why shouldn’t I go to my church people and get to know how they are living.” I came to know that they are living on water and rice, having nothing left at home. Suddenly I got a phone call from a wealthy man of God who asked me what I am doing for the church. I told him the whole story, and he sent me some money to distribute food items among the needy. Thus this work of welfare started, and many other people came to know that I am doing such work, and they also sent me money to distribute among those who are really in difficult situations. Thus, I worked three months continually in the church, and thus God was glorified, and we were able to reach those to whom the government was not reaching.” God also provided for a hostel of the Hyderabad Diocese, whose situation became uncertain when promised financial support was suddenly unavailable. Thanks to God’s leading and work through an NZ church, a way was opened for support to be raised despite economic constraints. Without the pandemic, banking transfers had been blocked due to changing regulations, but a small window of time was opened during the first wave of Covid-19 where they allowed transfers to happen! Because of this the hostel did not close, but was able to support its students between lockdowns as they worked towards their Matriculation and College exams and continue to grow in faith and life skills. In response we say thank You God for giving us our daily bread. Thank you for allowing us to see glimpses of Your kingdom coming here on earth. Tessa – Solomon Islands I was invited to address 200 girls in the first-ever Girls Friendly Society meeting on the Island of Malaita. I met up with a few other women early in the morning and drove our Toyota Hiace van for two hours down the gravel road to the other side of our port town. The Scripture I shared was from Ephesians about our identity as beloved children of God. I shared about how we’re given many different names as we grow – daughter, sister, friend, student, wife, mother etc – and how these names may come and go as seasons change, but that in God’s eyes we are always his children. I shared about being wise in our relationships and how God wants us to lead pure and holy lives for him. The subject of abortion came up, and one of the leaders stood up with tears in her eyes. She shared how she had encouraged her pregnant teenage daughter to get rid of a baby and how she felt guilt and fear that God would punish her. She asked, “Who will God punish for this sin? Me or my daughter?” I told her that if she repents and asks for God’s forgiveness, she can rest assured that the Lord loves her and will restore her. I then quoted Romans 8:38 – 8:39 to her and the rest of the group, which talks about how nothing can separate us from the love of God through Christ Jesus our Lord. It was an incredible experience to comfort this mother with God’s word and reassure her that her sins are forgiven in Christ. Adrienne – Cambodia The Handa Academy (T.H.A.) school was closed for ten months in 2020. I remained focused on staying in Cambodia as I wanted to get the Learning Center set up and ready by the time the school re-opened. Jesus has still used me to show his love to the students in ways that don’t use spoken words. After three months or so of not seeing the students, I wanted to encourage them somehow. God gave me the idea of making ‘Educational Care Packs’ for the students to pick up. Management approved this, so worksheets were prepared, copied, and put together along with some craft materials, a bar of soap and a small gift for each of the 80 students. I also made a card for each student with an encouraging note inside written in Khmer for them. I put the contents in a plastic bag with their name on the outside and packaged them in a box ready to distribute at the T.H.A. gate. I was able to do this a couple of times, and I felt like God used the packs to show our love and care for the students even though we couldn’t be together at school. I was also able to make encouraging signs to hang in the Learning Centre so that the students knew that they were loved, that we believe in them and to encourage them to keep learning. DOWNLOAD FULL REPORT HERE
THIS ARTICLE WAS PUBLISHED AS PART OF THE ANNUAL REPORT. DOWNLOAD ANNUAL REPORT HERE I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, forever.With my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations.I declare that your steadfast love is established forever, your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.(Psalm 89) Tēnā koutou katoa,As I look back over 2020, I join the writer of Psalm 89 in praising God for His steadfast love and faithfulness. There have certainly been times of grief as we walked alongside global Mission Partners and the people they serve in the midst of a pandemic. There was also uncertainty for all of us, with flights grounded, lockdowns around the world, and plans constantly changing. In the midst of all this, we look back and see God’s faithful hand over us at NZCMS, a faithfulness as firm as the heavens. And, like the generations of CMS before us, we continue to proclaim God’s faithfulness and steadfast love. As a community passionate about mission, we know God’s calling on us as ‘sent people,’ sent into the world to proclaim and live out God’s faithful love.NZCMS has always been about sending people globally. Despite the challenges that 2020 brought, many of our global Mission Partners have been able to stay in country and continue to serve. In times of crisis, there is even more need for people to know God’s saving love, and our Mission Partners have found creative ways to serve in changing circumstances. While some Mission Partners were forced to return to New Zealand, we continue to receive applications from people discerning a call to long-term service in global Mission. Even as we send globally, we seek to support the church in New Zealand in mission. Our heart is for the whole church to live as ‘sent people’ wherever we find ourselves. NZCMS is now partnering with two Māori dioceses to support the ministry of Māori evangelists to proclaim the Gospel amongst their people. Over the past three years, we have partnered with the Wellington Diocese in the Intercultural Communities project, helping churches engage with people from different cultures. We continue to be passionate about discipling young people with a missional heart. In February 2020, we kicked off the second year of the Better World Gap Year, only to have to cancel it due to Covid-19. We plan to relaunch Better World in 2022, with the same vision but located within New Zealand. We took advantage of lockdowns to start ‘Happy Hour,’ online conversations about mission. Mission Partners joined our panels from global locations, and hundreds tuned in to join these conversations.Thank you for your support during this challenging year. As I look back over the year that was, the hymn that comes to mind (one known to many in the NZCMS family) is ‘How Great is the God we Adore’.“To Jesus the first and lastwhose Spirit will guide us safe homeWe will praise him for all that is pastAnd trust him for all that is come.” May the Lord bless you.DOWNLOAD ANNUAL REPORT HERE
Rosie Fyfe National Director
NZCMS Board member, Ian Daily, reflects on how those gifted with singleness find and belong to an intimate, fulfilling and outward looking community. “Don’t expect us to be your friends – we’re very busy people!” The words of this thoughtless and unfeeling remark left me stunned and without words for a minute. Here I was, returning home to New Zealand after 21 years away – a single person without a spouse with whom to share the challenges of adjusting to a new life in an environment that was now strange and unfamiliar. I suddenly felt very alone. The family members and friends I’d had when I’d left so long before had all moved on with their lives and I realised that my network of relationships had to some degree unraveled. There were now few common interests, and not many could relate to my overseas experience and weren’t very interested anyway. I needed a new community into which I could be welcomed, where I could find a place to give and receive, and where I could serve God in a new context. And I was now well and truly middle-aged!Of course, all this had happened in reverse 20 years earlier when I’d arrived in South America, but I was young then and was invigorated by discovering how to live in a new culture and learn a new language. There were quite a few other single Mission Partners (as well as welcoming missionary families) and friendships were quickly formed, many of which have endured to this day. There was an instant missionary community we fitted into and we forged friendships with many of the local people.The number of single people in overseas mission was, and still is, quite striking. At present 30% of NZCMS’s Mission Partners are singles. This is a far higher proportion of single adults in this age group than you will find in the general population. What would overseas mission look like were it not for single women who have been open to serving God in this way throughout the generations?The blessings and dangers of a single life We all start our lives as singles, and as God’s children we are to accept that gift. For many, there comes the opportunity to exchange the gift of singleness for the gift of marriage and they are to embrace that gift as God’s calling on their life. For the rest of us, we still have the gift that God means us to have. Some will go on to take vows of celibacy but most of us are “unintentional” singles who “ended up this way” but who are to continue embracing the gift God has given. Singleness often brings loneliness and a lack of human intimacy, sometimes a sense of not fitting in and an unwarranted sense of failure. But it brings freedom and opportunities that couples often don’t have. I’m not sure I would have visited more than 70 countries on mostly work assignments had I not been single! And, for many, a deeper level of intimacy with God is found. It also brings dangers of self-indulgence and of shutting other people out. The bottom line is that we must echo Paul’s words in Philippians 4. “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation… I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.”So what can we singles do to find a sense of community? Looking back over the 20 years since I returned home, I have found the following strategies helpful.Maintaining family networks while awayI have literally dozens of cousins and we have reunions every few years. This engenders a sense of belonging and reinforces a sense of personal identity. I have people out there who belong to me, and I to them. Get to know them again and strengthen old ties.Building relationshipsA place of work is a great place to build new relationships. The same applies to where you live – getting to know neighbours and getting involved in local activities. This has certainly been true for me, living in a community of 59 families, and now co-chairing the committee that oversees the care and maintenance of our homes. Many nationalities live here and I can even speak Spanish to my Colombian neighbour!VolunteeringEvery Friday I drive the buggy at Selwyn Village for those with mobility issues. This has allowed me to get to know a totally different group of people, both staff and residents, and provides me with moments of ministry and a window into a completely different world.Being involved in a faith communityDespite the dispiriting start to this article, my closest and most faithful friends and prayer partners did surround me with encouragement and support. I also joined a small and warm congregation, which incidentally has many singles, including the “once-were-married” and the widowed. Very quickly a sense of belonging and community developed and this is where I felt the strongest sense of community as I became involved in the activities and ministry of the parish.Those who have never married are not to be considered objects of pity, suspicion or condescension. Their life has simply taken a different path – they have received a different gift in life from the majority. They have been granted freedom and time to devote to Christian ministry as the Apostle Paul noted as being one of the advantages of singleness (I Corinthians 7). And many have discovered a special intimacy with their Lord and the joy of being able to channel their reserves of love to the widest possible number of people around them. Let us bless God who gives us the grace that goes with each and every gift he bestows!Questions to considerIn a society that is so focused on romantic relationships as being the pathway to true happiness and fulfillment, in what ways can singleness be viewed as an alternative model of human completeness? How can love of others, as opposed to love of the human “significant other”, help us to understand the character and breadth of God’s love?What ideas do you have about how the gifts and experience of single people (whether they have overseas mission experience or not) could be harnessed to enhance the ministry and outreach of local faith communities? Most churches have significant numbers of ‘home-aloners’ in their congregations. Many will have felt that their networks of relationships have unraveled over the years, or have worries about living alone, especially if they are older. What more can your faith community do to strengthen a sense of community, belonging and care?
CMS Mission Partner, Dianne, reflects on the fruit and faithfulness of God as she leads a children’s ministry in the Philippines. “You did not choose me but I have chosen you…….that you might go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, He may give it to you.” – John 15:16I went back to Philippines in January 2018 with a broken arm. A good way to start the year! But I knew that way back God chose me to come here to the Philippines and therefore he would fix it. In January 1976 I was driving my rusty little VW over the hills to Camp Raglan where 120 plus children were arriving for a week long camp. I read the verse for today on my dashboard which said ”…the Lord has chosen you…to serve Him.” – 2Chronicles 29:11. At that moment the word “Philippines” flashed across my mind. I told the Lord “I don’t want to go there!” I could go to England yes, because I could visit relatives I’d never seen before. However I then added “Well Lord, if this is really from you please make it clear!” The next day my director went to our P. O. Box for the mail. I hardly wrote letters, so I hardly received any. He gave me a blue airmail letter, which was my first ever letter from the Philippines, and it contained a direct invitation to join the children’s ministry there! Since then, I’ve known very clearly this whole time that God has chosen me to minister in the Philippines and he provides what we need to obey him.Fruit that I’ve seenOur fruit for Jesus just keeps on growing! From teachers sharing the Gospel in their classes, parent’s Bible studies and the odd parent our Principal leads to the Lord, to children and staff devotions in the Children’s Home and visiting disabled people who are “shut ins” in their homes. We held a Summer Children’s Camp, to which 80 came. I worked with four Bible Clubs which saw 80 plus come to Jesus. Two training seminars brought in another 170 children. A very meaningful event for me was hearing the blind pastor in our Camp for Disabled clearly preaching a salvation message along with his own personal testimony using his braille Bible.Overall, I can conservatively estimate that 400 people have come to Jesus in the past year, most of those mainly children. What incredible fruit!Fruit going on for JesusAnother area where I have seen fruit is in the ongoing involvement of former students. We held reunions for both former Bible College alumni and Children’s Home alumni, which brought about 80 people to tell their stories and catch up with us. A good number are involved with churches, some with Christian schools and some are overseas or in far distant places. Three new teachers in our school are former pupils and converts, who want to continue this legacy. To top it all off one of our former children’s home boys, who is now a businessman, contacted me a month ago from Qatar. He had started a church plant there for a Baptist church a few years back and wanted lecture material on children’s ministry so he could teach their members! How is that for fruit going on for Jesus!“Whatever you ask in my name, I will give to you”. – John 14:13Another story is very close to my kiwi heart! One of the most joyful events in the Children’s Home is when we celebrate a children’s birthday. All was set for the day. The decorations were ready, the gifts were wrapped, the games were prepared, and the favourite food was ready to cook. And of course we had a cake. Unfortunately, we had no ice-cream! We had prayed, but there was just not enough in the budget for it. However, the Lord says “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways.” – Isaiah 55:8.Early next morning there was a knock on the Children’s Home door and a man entered with a steel container with two big tubs of ice-cream! The owner of the Popular Ice-cream Company was having his birthday that day and he thought he would share his blessings with the children in the home. Everyone was surprised and jumping with joy. Thank you Lord!If you remember, at the beginning of this article, I wrote about how I broke my arm at the beginning of last year. Well it has now healed beautifully and I can even do push ups! In reflecting on the fruit that I’ve seen God grow in the last year, I am constantly reminded, just like with the story of my broken arm, when God chooses you he provides your needs!
Ruth, along with her husband Mike, have been on the mission field in Papua New Guinea and Cambodia for an estimated 14 years all together, with up to five children with them. All five of their children are now grown up and all are pursuing God’s mission in one way or another. We asked Ruth how they have gone about teaching her children to be missional.When we were back in New Zealand for the birth of our twin boys, I heard someone speaking on Radio Rhema about how easy it is for parents to have a “castle mentality”. We want our children to be safe and so it’s tempting to live behind a protective Christian wall and tell them, “Don’t rock the boat, stay with what you know,” so they can have a nice, safe life and go to heaven when they die! Jesus’ call is so different. We’re here to take the light of his love into the darkness. Whenever Mike, my husband, and I read Bible stories to our kids, we talked about how God is with anyone who steps out and trusts him. Even when things go wrong, God is always there. As was appropriate age-wise, we shared and prayed with our children for God’s answer for us and others around us, wherever we lived. While living overseas we had the privilege of meeting people from many cultures who chose to follow Jesus and often at great cost. Our children saw the reality of their faith and that God is not a Kiwi but is at work throughout the world that he created and loves.When we returned to New Zealand our children did find it hard at times, feeling so different. They were pastor’s kids, missionary kids and home schoolers! We never pretended that this was not true, instead we talked about how all Christians are called to be aliens, not really belonging in this world. We looked for opportunities for them to meet people who were willing to be radical followers of Jesus and were still cool! We did this so that they learned that there were many expressions of how to live for Jesus, and that we’re each responsible for playing our part and being active in the community of believers that God places us in. We often discussed that following Jesus is not an excuse to be weird or harsh in our relationships with others, but rather an opportunity to share the love and acceptance we’ve experienced from him with those around us. We encouraged them to dream big, use the gifts they have, live boldly with Jesus and be agents for God’s Kingdom in the world. I believe this is mission,wherever you may live. And this is how we took our family along on the ride with us.
Tess Delbridge talks with NZCMS National Director Steve Maina to find out what courageous faith really looks like.As John Allen Chau prepared to land on the remote North Sentinel island in the Bay of Bengal, its residents known to be violently hostile towards outsiders, he wrote in a letter to his parents, “You guys might think I’m crazy in all this but I think it’s worth it to declare Jesus to these people. Please do not be angry at them or at God if I get killed.”According to his journal, during his first interaction with the tribesmen he shouted, “My name is John, and I love you and Jesus loves you.” They shot at him with bows and arrows. The following day, he was killed by the tribe, his body dragged along the beach and buried. Chau’s story is reminiscent of the story of missionary Jim Elliott, murdered by a remote Ecuadorian tribe in the 1950s, and is somehow both inspiring and frightening for ordinary Christians. “No matter which way you look at it,we need that sort of grit, where you know you’re going to be persecuted, you know you might die, but you’re still willing to go,” says NZCMS National Director Steve Maina. “You’re not being asked to die for your faith in New Zealand, but we still find it hard to share the gospel,” says Steve. “Our confidence in the gospel is getting lost, and we need a reawakening of our confidence and boldness in the gospel.”Steve’s vision for NZCMS is that we would recapture the need for urgent and courageous proclamation of the gospel to all people. “We need to encounter Jesus in such away that he turns our lives upside down. Sometimes I have wondered whether that is actually the problem,” says Steve. “We need to have a living faith and a living encounter with Jesus where it’s his glory we seek rather than our glory or our safety. In 2 Corinthians 5:15, Paul says, ‘he [Jesus] died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.’“Is there a problem with our encounter with Jesus? Have our lives been transformed so much that we are devoted wholly to the saviour who has given his life for us?” Steve asks. That’s the heart of the NZCMS mission.We exist to see lives changed by the gospel, bringing glory to God. This year we expanded our mission focus to include various communities at home here in New Zealand. We appointed someone to research how we could increase our work among migrant communities.We have two mission partners specifically focused on mobilising young people for mission, and we have recently confirmed our first mission partner to work among Maori people in South Auckland. Across the world, the stories of gospel transformation continue. In the Philippines children are coming to the Lord in droves. There are new believers in the Middle East. Families in Asia are being equipped to protect their children from human trafficking, and in Africa, clinics and pharmacies are empowering communities and saving lives. And the stories of transformed lives continue to pour in. These are the stories of what happens when people have a living encounter with Jesus.We give thanks to God for our mission partners and supporters, who have caught the vision of courageous gospel proclamation across the world. But we want to go further. In 2019, NZCMS is prayerfully aiming to raise up 20 new mission partners to take up this challenge of courageous gospel proclamation, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region. “We cannot give ourselves to these bold steps without an encounter with Jesus,” says Steve. “People are not naturally willing to give their lives to something where they think there’s a huge risk. But I’m praying that God can help us challenge that because I’m finding that if we’re going to be raising workers for the harvest, we cannot promise them safety. So we need brave people, men and women who are willing to go to places that are broken in this world and bring transformation.”But not all of us need to be John Allen Chau, who was prepared to risk his life for the sake of bringing the gospel to the North Sentinelese. An encounter with the risen Lord Jesus enables each one of us to make courageous decisions to share the love of Christ. For some, being brave in this way may mean risking the good opinion of our neighbours or colleagues in order to see some won for Christ. For others it may mean the loss of a treasured job. And for yet others, it may mean a violent death at the hands of an isolated tribe. Jesus says, ‘the harvest is plentiful and the workers are few’.“Are you going to be brave or safe?”asks Steve. “You can’t be both.”
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.
I woke up with my heart leaping from my chest. My mind and emotions were not at rest. I had made some decisions that might have impacted my family negatively. I felt a lack of communication and a tangible sense of unease in some of my primary relationships. I felt more tired than I thought I should be, flat spiritually and as if discouragement had somehow attached itself to my insides. In other words, I felt some kind of spiritual resistance. I think I was under attack!
Scripture tells us we have three primary enemies: the devil, the world and the flesh. When D.L Moody – an American evangelist in 1837-1899 – was asked one day, “Who is the biggest obstacle in your ministry?” his response was, “D.L. Moody!” That has also been my experience. My biggest problems are usually caused by… well, me, to be honest. But before we get too discouraged, Moody also said, “If this world is going to be reached, I am convinced that it must be done by men and women of average talent.”
And I think that means we don’t need to be spiritual giants or super humans to deal with spiritual attack. But we may need to be alert, because the devil, that enemy Satan, is an opportunist, and just loves to find a chink in our armour. He tries to irritate, distract or harm us. It can be mistakes we make, sins we commit, sins of omission, and even sins we have been forgiven that he may suggest we are not really forgiven for, that Satan will use against us.
So when we find ourselves in what may very well be a spiritual storm, what can we do? Scripture is the obvious place to start, and I love the clear, practical advice in James 4:6-10:
“But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
’God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble’.
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
Good old James is so sensible and practical, isn’t he? The following are some practical steps we can take.Submit to God. Do things God’s way. Am I part of the problem, in my actions and attitudes? Confess it to God. Clean up any unfinished business. Is there anyone I have harmed or neglected etc? Go to them soon, apologise and ask for forgiveness. Then, resist the devil. Simply, clearly and with the authority God has promised in the scripture above. I believe that if you’ve acted on the first two steps, then any legal ground the enemy may have to hassle you is gone. You will find that “mountains” become “molehills” pretty quickly, the fog will lift and you will be able to see the sun and the way forward again.
Just a small example of this. My wife, Ruth, and I pastored churches in New Zealand for about ten years, and we had five small children. And if ever Ruth and I were going to have an argument, it would seem to erupt just before we were heading off to church on Sunday mornings. If ever a child could not find one shoe, it would be Sunday morning. If ever a child was to throw up all over their best clothes, yes, it would be Sunday morning! So, we would not arrive at church happy and serene as befitting our station! It didn’t take too long to see this was becoming a pattern. Did the devil cause these things or just take advantage of them happening? I’m not sure, but what I do know is that he loved to see us angry and frustrated right before we headed off to church.
When we prayed that this pattern – and our reactions – would change, almost immediately things improved. Yes, there was still the occasional lost shoe or vomit, but our reactions to these things became much gentler and more loving towards each other. And, as a bonus, we became more strategic as well! We would make sure all the shoes and clothes were laid out and ready on Saturday night. Also, I (Mike) would try and have my sermon written and finished off by Thursday night to relieve any ‘late pressure’.
Usually, when I don’t see a change for the better or have a breakthrough, it’s because I have tried to shortcut the process, and have not completed steps one and two properly before entering the battle. I have to remember that “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” I believe the most effective warfare stance is the bent knee and a humble, teachable heart.
Some may say, “This battle is not spiritual, it is emotional, psychological, physical, circumstantial, etc. and I don’t see a devil or demon hiding behind a bush waiting to attack.” Well that is ok; however you perceive it is fine with me. Yet I still think the principles outlined in James will put you in a far more secure place, knowing that you are submitted to God, open to his guidance and striving to be at peace with others in your world.
This will give you victory over many kinds of battles.
Mike works on staff at the NZCMS central office in Christchurch.
This article is part of NZCMS’ quarterly magazine Intermission. Each article will be uploaded periodically and can be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission. Alternatively, to receive a physical copy of the magazine, feel free to email us at email@example.com or call on 03 377 2222.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 03 377 2222.
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 DiscussionWhat 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 email@example.com or call us on 03 377 2222.